I could try and convey a message that compares something we are familiar with to trying to understand the hardships of our Darfuri brother and sisters. I could write about how my parents’ AC unit went out this summer. Now, they live in 110 degrees of summer heat. Their house is unbearable and probably a good 95 degrees inside. Of course the fridge works and they can still get cold ice water, take cold showers, or even get some nice ice cream treats. All luxuries the refugees don’t have. But the two don’t even compare. It’s like comparing a grain of sand to the size of the sun.
Then my mind goes to my family. Maybe I could try to put my family in the refugees’ shoes to try to create empathy. My pregnant wife, my four-year old son, and my one-year-old daughter took an impromptu mini trip last week, heading to the cool beaches of Southern California. We were tired of the summer heat and just wanted to go. Eight hours later we were sitting and feeling the cool breeze of the Pacific Ocean. I could write about this and how the people of Darfur have nowhere to escape to. They are trapped in camps, living in tents, and there is nowhere to go. If they do leave, (whether they go back into Sudan to get such simple supplies as soap) they risk everything to do it. I try to put my family in their shoes and just can’t do it – it’s impossible.
I could write about football. I like football and most American men can talk for hours about football. I could write about the newly constructed Cowboys Stadium, the site of this year’s Super Bowl. The cost was only $1.3 billion and houses the largest high-definition screen in the world, some 160 feet long by 72 feet high. How is all of this done? It’s by our collective attention to football (about 100,000,000 people will watch this year’s Super Bowl). Now I am not saying we shouldn’t watch sports or play them. I love them. But just imagine if we could take that collective attention, or even a fraction of it, and direct it to Darfur? That’s really what Darfur needs, more attention. Why can’t our country direct more attention to Darfur?
Then my mind starts to think about the culture of our country. Maybe I could write about this. What does it say about the culture of our country, when in seven years, we haven’t fully responded to genocide? There is a mad man who is systematically killing and destroying people. Seven years, and what have we really done? It should take us all of seven minutes to jump on this and work to getting it resolved. Seven years?
I remember watching an Anderson Cooper special years ago titled something to the effect of “Darfur: The Shame of the World.” What would we call in now? If our response back then was shameful, what do we call in now? “Darfur: The epitome of evil in this world, yet continues because of my own selfish desires, my unconcern, my ignorance, and my need to pretend it is not happening so I can live in my perpetually entertained dreamland.”
Of course that sounds kind of harsh. I do think it is shameful and tragic, but the sad thing is we just don’t believe we can do anything about it. Most people would sadly say they couldn’t do anything about Darfur, that they can’t make a difference. Maybe it’s because the situation seems too overwhelming, or that it’s hard to connect to others on the other side of the world. Why is that? Why can’t we connect to other human beings? Why can’t we see the people of Darfur as we see ourselves? They are us, there is only us. There are no Africans, or Americans, just humans. We are only a tiny planet surrounding a sun that is like a gazillion light years from any other star. How are people that are only a short plane ride away, not us?
I feel this disconnect and at times I feel that I can’t do anything about it. I’m sure many do, but that’s when I take a deep breath, I realize we are all connected, and that no one is asking me to save Darfur. I only need to do my part. I need to give it my attention so that collectively we can do something about it.
What I can write is something that would convey the message that with all of the other things we think about in our lives, we have room to remember those who are living in tragic circumstances and it all starts with acknowledging that it’s happening and to think about them everyday.