“Not On My Watch”
By the time I have turned this paper in, my biotechnology test will have passed, and I will be considerably more relaxed with the world, no longer cramming in genetic terminologies and different techniques of DNA splicing. I will admit that because this test in particular was more visibly immediate, I was more concerned with it than an extra credit assignment for a class in which I am already earning an A. While I had attended the recommended lecture and had even recently watched Hotel Rwanda with the intentions of understanding political parallels between the current Sudanese tragedies and the war of the Hutus and Tutsis several years back, I still considered giving up on my paper endeavors since I have been putting it off so long and was tired from force feeding my brain so much information pertinent to other academic fields. If I’m already on top of things, why extend the unnecessary effort?
It might sound cheesy, but I think that is an accurate illustration of the attitudes our country is demonstrating as it witnesses the Darfur situation from a distance. Because it’s occurring a world away from us, our nation has expressed an overwhelming abundance of apathy concerning what the extra credit lecturer described as the only genocide in history to be described as genocide while it was still going on. We’re on top of the world in our own eyes, and there are more immediate issues visible to us over here, so why bother ourselves with the devastation of those displaced in Darfur? We preoccupy ourselves by watching superficial programs like Engaged and Underaged or My Sweet Sixteen on MTV, but when it comes down to serious affairs and extended aid, we flip the channel. BeAWitness.org maintains that even American news sources (ABC, CBS, and NBC specifically) had aired exponentially more information concerning the Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart news trials during the year 2004, a very significant period for the Darfur crisis. It went on to explain that only 1 in every 950 minutes (26 minutes, total) of news provided by these stations during that time provided any updates on the ongoings of this Sudanese region.
Even on BBC, Anna Nicole Smith landed herself as the star of breaking world news with her death from “unknown causes” and continued to be featured while her child’s custody and the site of her burial was disputed. Our region of the globe produces laughable topics of news while generalizing that those beyond ourselves are in “one huge mess”. TVEyes.com concluded after some related analysis in June 2005 that “if television does not cover the genocide in Sudan, it does not exist in the minds of many Americans. If it does not exist in the public’s mind, there is no sense of urgency and no public pressure on world leaders to do anything to stop the killing.” Political apathy is one topic the speaker touched on when explaining how lousy our news coverage is in this country.
The lecturer went on to emphasize the enthusiasm with which the Sudanese presented their awful stories: how the citizens witnessed their closest family members killed before their eyes, how the local water supply has been poisoned with the bodies of those murdered, how the threat of rape is considered “safer” than the threat of death, so the women are more ready to leave their homes to collect firewood so they can prepare their rationed food to feed what family they have left. The people of this region believe that as the number of listening Americans increases, the closer they are to deliverance. I found the amount of hope invested in a nation whose news channels won’t give a country more than a half hour of news coverage in a year — such an insignificant measure of time — to be the saddest detail of her entire presentation.
I could continue to discuss depressing particulars such as the World Food Program’s cut from 2300 to 1600 calorie rations per day or how they cannot yet provide food that is able to be prepared without a fire because the firewood industry is one of the few economic endeavors attempted over there with any success rate, but I won’t. I will mention, instead, our failure to stop the Sudanese leader’s manipulation of his people because there’s slight promise of the occasional “terroristic” detail being dispensed to our fight-against-terrorism hungry forces. When watching civil war tear a country reigned by oppressive governing forces apart, it is not best to turn our heads with helplessness. Our country needs to be promoting war relief and sending the funding and resources these people need from someone able to help them.
A phrase I found especially upsetting was scribbled by George W. Bush in the margins of a report he had received about the ongoings in Darfur: “Not on my watch”. While it’s disheartening to read about, it is one thing to be moved by a genocide of four years (which can easily be understood to occur on his presidential “watch”) and quite another to do the moving. We are a powerful nation. Even to a region where direct aid is constantly threatened with attacks and violence, we are capable of helping; in fact, 80% of the charities designed for this tragedy do go into direct humanitarian aid. The President may will the overseas troubles to cease and may express that will, but until the suffering is nationally recognized, Darfur will not receive the help it needs to find peace.