Day 7: June 21, 2009

What will it take?

IMG_1914.JPG The team here on the ground has been wracking its collective brain with a simple question, how do we get people to care?  I know, it’s not simple at all.  So, we make it more manageable and ask, how do we get enough people to care just enough? Care just a little?

And from caring, to action.

“Out of the entire population of US, how many people do you think have called the White House?,” Ian asked.  It has to be a fraction of 1%, is my guess.

Samantha Power, genocide scholar and now with the Obama administration, summarizes her key findings from researching for her book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”:

  • Despite graphic media coverage, most American policymakers, journalists, and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil. Ahead of the killings, they assume rational actors will not inflict seemingly gratuitous violence. They trust in negotiations and traditional diplomacy. Once the killings start, they assume that civilians who keep their heads down will be left alone. They urge cease-fires and donate aid.
  • It is in the realm of domestic politics that the battle to stop genocide is lost. American leaders interpret society-wide silence as indifference and reason that involvement carries steep risks while non-engagement is safe. Lawmakers, editorial boards, nongovernmental groups, and ordinary constituents do not generate sufficient political pressure to change that calculus.
  • The U.S. government not only abstains from sending its troops, but it takes very few steps along a continuum of intervention to deter genocide.
  • U.S. officials spin themselves (as well as the American public) about the nature of the violence and the likely impact of an American intervention. They render the bloodshed two-sided and inevitable, not genocidal. They insist that any proposed U.S. response will be futile, and may harm the victims and jeopardize other precious American moral or strategic interests. They brand as “emotional” those U.S. officials who urge intervention. They avoid use of the word “genocide.” Thus, they can in good conscience favor stopping genocide in the abstract, while simultaneously opposing American involvement.

IMG_1948.JPG The suffering that has been experienced during the last years in Darfur is far from an abstract.  It is very real.  I know that you care, since you’re here in our website reading this. How do we get more to care?  How do we win the battle?

Paz, G

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