Below is a blog by Christina Dendy, april 19: why we rally for darfur


i’ve been thinking about the why a lot lately because it’s a question that many people will ask--why we rally, what we hope to accomplish, what the point is, why we devote time and effort to people half a world away instead of to a more localized or national concern--and my only answer is that we must. sometimes, we simply must. because our neighbors are not just the people watching tv next door or the folks driving by us at the gas station or the fellow citizens shopping in markets and malls all across america. our neighbors are everywhere in every corner of this strange floating hunk of rock.
it’s hard to say whether 400,000 lives mean more than one. to the one—and those who love him or her—mathematics is moot. to a mother, the entire population of the planet cannot begin to assuage the loss of one small child. the absence of one feels like the absence of all.
but the compounding of the numbers, the mounting tallies, the swelling grief of so many killed and suffering, of so many waking to the vacuum of those they have lost, and of so many perpetrating the slaughter or turning away and letting it happen because it is not THEIR one, that is the incomprehensible tragedy of genocide.
and humanity is no stranger to it:
- when Europeans came to the Americas, they slaughtered or caused the deaths of 90-95% of the native population, a total whose estimate averages in the tens of millions.
- more than 2 million Africans died during the voyages of the slave trade.
- the Ottomans killed more than 800,000 Armenians in the early 1900s.
- Stalin’s regime killed tens of millions through execution/purging, famine, and gulag imprisonment.
- the rape of Nanking by the Japanese in 1937 and 1938 killed more than 300,000.
- the Holocaust killed 6 million Jews, 10 millions Slavs, more than 200,000 Roma, and more than 200,000 people identified as homosexual. and more.
- the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed more than 200,000 people on impact. thousands more died slowly.
- the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed 1.7 million.
- hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians were killed by Mengistu’s regime.
- the genocide in Rwanda killed more than 900,000.
now, as many as 400,000 people, mostly noncombatant men, women, and children, have been killed by government-supported militias in the Darfur region of Sudan.
the numbers are daunting, and for most of us, they are just numbers. after all, we have 6 billion (billion!) people on the planet. thousands die every day. thousands more are born. life goes on in some fashion.
but here’s what happens while the rest of us are living: men with guns and machetes and various other weapons storm entire villages, set fire to people’s homes, shoot and cut down men, women, children as they sleep or cry or run or cower or fight. mothers and fathers die with children in their arms as blades and bullets pierce two bodies in one blow. loved ones drag loved ones from the carnage only to find that they have saved a dead body. those who do survive have watched everyone who means more than the other 6 billion people in the world to them be massacred.
people across the globe have whispered and written "never again" and "enough" over and over, but when does never come and when is enough really enough? when do people stand and say that no resource, no land, no wealth, no power, no religious rectitude, no ideology, no skin color, is worth the slaughter of even one person? when do people put their voices and their own bodies behind their sermons?
citizens of the Dayton metropolitan area are not rallying and marching because our words and feet will sway the Janjaweed, or the government that pays and shelters them, or the business interests around the world (including American companies) that fund them. we are not gathering because 400,000 lives in Darfur are more important than the neighbors and fellow citizens who need our help in other ways, than the 4,000 American soldiers and 1 million Iraqi civilians who have died in Iraq, then the millions of other people on the planet who suffer and die in many controllable, stoppable ways.
we gather because to not gather is to say it’s okay; to not gather is to endorse not the genocide itself but the human capacity and motivation for genocide; to not gather, to not speak, to not shout and march and write letters and sign petitions and make signs and beat drums and confront the violent imagery and sounds of genocide is to acknowledge that we are little more than sentient savages who have the fervor to murder but not the will to find and practice compassion; to not gather is to say that none of our good works, none of our gods or ideologies or stories or artwork or crafts or monumental architecture or great scientific and medical achievements or songs or families or passions or loves or dreams matter. none of it. to not gather is to negate any human purpose because to not gather acknowledges and acclaims that human life--working, playing, loving, laughing, hoping, fearing, making, acting, sleeping, thinking, dancing, cooking, hand-holding life--is worthless.
the genocide in Darfur is not about 400,000 people. it is about one person. it is about you. your child. your mother. your brother. your lover. your mentor. your student. your friend. you.
change begins in the germ of an idea that infests a civic body and spreads. that idea, that change, can be for good or for ill. help us plant a good seed. join us. be a voice for darfur. be a voice for your loved ones and your community and your country and your humanity, and say, "it’s not okay. stop. make it stop. no more. never again. enough."
we are a small group and a small community on a wide and beautiful but bloody planet. our chant is part of a long refrain. but I hear that even a butterfly can start a tsunami. no effect results without cause. nothing changes without even the smallest of actions to begin or build the chain. and the momentum toward change grows with every new voice and action.
Saturday, April 19, 1 p.m. at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton: rally with us. march with us. help the chain grow. come because you know that you should. it is right. and sometimes, that has to be enough.