Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Litany of Despair

Everyday, when I look at the papers, only one question consumes my mind. How many this time? And true to my expectations, a certain number, different from yesterday and the day before, comes up. Sometimes in a given day, as many as over three hundred people lose their lives-- bombs blow up entire markets, police recruitment centers, residential blocks. How could humans, entire families continue to exist in such a place? How could you survive everyday with the sword of terror hanging perilously over your head, not knowing whether your father, mother, brother, sister, husband or child would still come home in one piece?

Sadly, in our highly-advanced era, we still continue to co-exist with unspeakable human tragedies. Along with the hundreds of thousands of refugees continually exposed to oppression, rape and hunger in Darfur, it seems that for all of our knowledge and historical experience--mankind has gained nothing useful in preventing bloody conflicts. And so the endless and wretched saga of the self-destructing nation that is Iraq continues to be, just another travesty of this modern civilization.

From the time of the Holocaust to the tragedies of Bosnia and Rwanda in the previous decade, and now Iraq and Darfur--I’ve found that majority of these conflicts stemmed from the basic issues of diversity—cultural, religious etc. In Iraq, aside from Iraqis vs. the whites, it’s Sunni vs. Shiite. In Darfur, Muslim Arab militias, backed by none other than the Sudanese government, continue to raid the hapless and predominantly-African villagers of Darfur. The Africans have grabbed the arable land, they say. As temperatures have risen in this age of global warming, so too has the arid desolation in their miniscule landholdings. And so allegedly, after decades of passivity, they’ve risen with a vengeance, to grab back vast tracks of fertile land. A closer look at this conflict however, shows a hatred rooted in cultural and religious differences. A racial issue that has now claimed over 800,000 lives (almost the same figure as that in Rwanda). A willful killing-spree tantamount to ethnic-cleansing and genocide. And for those who thought things like these would never happen again...

In 1994, back when my only problem (as the unofficial songleader) was preparing the next line-up of mass songs in our all-girl Catholic high school, I didn’t know then that girls my age were being slaughtered halfway across the world —in Rwanda. Recently, I watched this unforgettable HBO film “Sometimes in April,” a true story about the genocide in Rwanda, and cried unstoppably in this compelling scene where a raiding machete-wielding Hutu militia peppered with M-16 bullets, a roomful of uniform-clad schoolgirls and children because they refused to surrender who was Tutsi among them. The tragic thing here is that, young as they were, they had already accepted at that moment, the ultimate consequence. They chose to be brave and face death together head-on, rather than become murderers themselves. To think that their killers, after exhausting all the bullets, still went on a systematic chopping rampage of their helpless victims, just to be sure they were dead.

In rare idle moments, I mull over despondent thoughts like these…Not too long ago, I got fixated on the Nazi extermination of the Jews in World War II after reading some graphic accounts on the novel “Beach Music” by Pat Conroy. It seemed to me then that God must have wanted me to actually get a first-hand experience of the relics or memoirs of this era and I suddenly found myself, in no time at all, on an all-expense paid trip to Cologne. Went to the holocaust museum in Bonn, Germany (where I also gazed with awe at the birthplace monument of the genius musician, my idol—Beethoven) and paused for a moment of silence as personal tribute to the more than six million victims, as their names rolled of one after another endlessly, in the black infinite void of a large LCD screen.

What baffles me no end is how a lot of these killings have been perpetrated in the name of God. But I’ll write about that next time.


  1. It behooves too how in the name of the Almighty, people kill their own to the point of extinction. All I know is that there is only one race, the human race.

    Perhaps its not about God but the greed of men for power, power to dominate. When greed sets in, even man thinks he is God. And there lies truth, man can never be content.

  2. Just dropped by to say hi. Take care.