Cries fall on deaf ears

Americans still lack an integral quality: basic respect for human life and the will to protect it.

Maureen Landsverk

Today, almost a decade after the turn of the century, we Americans still lack an integral quality of any evolved nation: a basic respect for human life and the will to protect it. The United States is seen by the world as a nation that prizes humanitarian efforts. Whether this opinion is an accurate depiction is irrelevant. The more pressing question is, in a crisis, will we choose to take action against defenders of injustice and prove right our reputation? Or will we falter and ultimately fail to prove it? The genocide in Darfur is that crisis, and this is our chance. As countries around the globe remain silent, passive and unwilling to lend a hand, an estimated 400,000 men, women and children have died since the conflict began in 2003. Furthermore, the United Nations reports nearly 2.5 million Africans have been displaced, suffering disease, malnutrition, and further violence and beatings, along with rape in the case of women and girls. The violence is all at the hands of the Sudanese military and their rebel army, the Janjaweed, translated to mean âÄúthe devil on horseback.âÄù After 2 million deaths in the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s; after 11 million lives were lost in the Holocaust, and 1 million in the Rwandan genocide just 15 years ago, the response to the âÄúethnic cleansingâÄù of the Darfur region of Sudan is, in the words of Nobel Peace laureate and head of the U.N. investigating team, âÄúpathetic.âÄù Mahatma Ghandi once said, âÄúThe future depends on what we do in the present.âÄù This statement verbalizes the intense debate that has brought countless leaders to a permanent state of indecision. AmericaâÄôs strength alone sets us apart from weaker countries as the most capable; but are we willing? Are we willing to put our fate on the line in order to do the right thing? As a country of world-renowned moral integrity and well-established civil law, the United States has a duty to preserve the rights and social welfare of DarfurâÄôs citizens. Dr. Ellen Kennedy, interim director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota, agrees. âÄúIt is the law of our land to prevent genocide from occurring,âÄù she adamantly states. âÄúIt is up to every one of us to raise our voices and take a stand.âÄù The mission of the Center is to try to reach educators, students and citizens with information about genocide prevention through workshops, film showings and other methods. The University has a multitude of ways for students to get involved and directly effect change in the Darfur crisis. Kennedy asserts that the most important action we can take now is to pressure political figures to action, especially our representatives. Lobbying your politicians is paramount, she says. The easiest way to go about this is by calling the toll-free number of the Genocide Prevention Network, 1-800-GENOCIDE, which will connect you with your local representative. Kennedy urges everyone to contact local representatives and urge them to ask President Barack Obama to complete the policy review of the Darfur situation in order to allow humanitarian aid agencies back into Darfur. Visit Darfurscores.org, a Web site that ranks public officials on their efforts to aid the prevention and resolution of the Darfur genocide. Letting Congress members know you are paying attention is key. Raising awareness by writing letters to Congress and the president, and spreading the word among friends and family is strongly encouraged. Getting involved in groups on campus is also a good opportunity. STAND, a branch of the Genocide Prevention Network, meets biweekly at 3:30 p.m. in room 303 of Coffman Memorial Union on Sunday, Sept. 20. More information can be found at www.standumn.webs.com. The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies hosts educational films, the next of which is scheduled to show at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17, at 88 N. 17th Street; the CenterâÄôs Web site is www.chgs.umn.edu. With the many, many ways to assist in ending the genocide in Darfur, everyone has the power and ability to take a stand. All democratic action starts at the grassroots level; why not influence policy, when it can be accomplished with a simple phone call or a letter? If individuals do not take action, neither will their government. âÄúThere has been no political will âÄî until that changes, I fear we will continue to see mass atrocities well into the 21st century,âÄù Dr. Ellen Kennedy states. We can be that change; that shift in the winds; that political will. All we must do is care enough to try. Maureen Landsverk welcomes comments at [email protected]