During our workshop we discussed the notion of universal human rights. As an American it is easy to simplify this issue to surround complex political policies such as racism, gay marriage, or religious practices. However, in reality it is far more than this. We see basic human rights as natural or god given. Not many of us contemplate human rights on a daily basis because within our own society it is not something we are required to fight for. Unfortunately the simple and most basic human right, the right to life, is not possible in every nation. Yet as privileged Americans we often turn a blind eye to the harsh realities of third world countries simply because it is not happening to us. This is exactly what happened in the Rwandan Genocide, and if we don’t change our perspective on foreign relations soon, it will happen again and again.
Genocide, never again? Unlikely.
The outsiders view on genocide and the associated human rights are presented in the cartoon above. The depicted graveyard with several gravestones creates a very bleak and somber feeling upon first glance. After a closer look, it is evident that this image has a meaning deeper than an everyday gravesite. All the stones name a genocide and say ‘never again’ yet are surrounded with later dated stones with the same words. This exposes both the bogus worldview on genocide. Following every tragedy we say never again, but is there every a follow through? In reality graveyards are constantly expanding every day. This image leaves in impression that just like a real graveyard, another stone will be carved and placed next to the others. The artist is sending the message that actions speak louder than words. He is showing and proving that simply saying ‘never again’ is no enough. In order to prevent genocide and stop the addition of gravestones something must be done to stop it before it happens again. We can no longer afford to sit back and watch minorities die every few years. Action is required from our world leaders not only for the benefit of the minorities but also for the sake of the global community.
In the case of Rwanda, the genocide only escalated once the Belgian soldiers decided to evacuate and abandon their peacekeeping mission. As a result the worldview of human rights and genocide can be connected to the principles of rites of passage. Slimbach says, “we need to step back and think about the actual conditions triggering our mental and emotional disorientations, and our physical response to it”(Slimbach, 165). Although Slimbach is referring to the rites of passage of an abroad traveler, the same principal can be allied to the reaction Belgian world leaders had. Once the unfamiliarity of the situation became to harsh of a reality the Belgian leaders and soldiers got freighted and left. If those in power had taken a step back and thought about the conditions before making a physical response the fate of Rwanda may have been different and the whole genocide prevented. It is now our job as global citizens to remember this tragedy so that when a the beginnings of a similar situation arise again, a more thought out plan can be executed. We all have a voice and we all must use that voice to protect not only our own human rights but also the human rights of the global community. Just as the individual in the picture below is jumping the gap between groups- we must all join in and recognize the global community as one entity endowed with the same universal human rights.