Wednesday, June 8, 2011
a bit of shame-faced awareness raising
Have you seen the film Blood Diamond? I think it's a rather brilliant film, so when it came on TV a few weeks ago, I thought I might watch. After about 30 seconds, my eyes were filled with tears and I was burying my head in my pillow. Yes, it's a sad film, but not 30 second sob sad. Yes, it's a scary film, but not horror in 30 seconds scary.
I immediately understood what was going on with me. The story had taken on real-life. It wasn't just a heartbreaking tale of a faraway land, it was a metaphor for the lives of people I lived with, laughed with and cried with. The boy soldiers, check. The women fleeing horny men with guns, check. The family of refugees separated by war and doing everything to reunite, check. Sure, I'm none of those people, in fact most of my time is spent in rooms that have air-conditioning and Internet radio. I've only a few times met people who fit those descriptions.
But even so, I feel like it hits home. My colleagues have been there and have seen it, in some cases lived it. The people in a film like Blood Diamond have experienced things like the people I went to the Dar to serve. And nothing has improved for them. Nothing. Maybe they're worse-off, and on some days, the only thing for which I'm grateful is that I "escaped" with minimal emotional trauma.
Today I was catching up on news in Sue Dan and discovered that most of it is bad. I was sent four different accounts of fighting in a border town. Very bad. One of the accounts was an eyewitness account but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to share it publicly so I won't. The New York Times article is much dryer and easier to read, but the story is still ugly:
"On Sunday, members of the southern military raided a police station in the city of Kadugli, looting weapons, United Nations officials said. Clashes broke out Sunday evening between the northern and southern armies about 60 miles away, they said. On Monday evening, fighting broke out ... with 10 tanks ... stationed throughout the town..."
The other accounts add details about people fleeing their homes but having nowhere to hide, other people staying in their houses for days on end, the fact that the market is closed for all business but shooting, lack of food or water or fuel... hospital patients preferring to take their chances running through the countryside with no treatment than to sit as ducks in the hospital, an increasing death toll, new mothers giving birth without any water to drink.
It's bad, and it's not the first city in the area to break out: If you want more, you can google-news "Abyei". Brace yourself.
There's a novel which portrays wartime Sue Dan that is fabulously written and horridly graphic. One day I was sitting in a café in Kht reading a battle scene from the book and I was terrified to walk back to my guesthouse, realising that the perpetrators in the book might very well be the men passing me on the streets at that moment. I'm not done reading it - must take that kind of stuff in tiny gulps. The novel is called Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo. If you're emotionally at a point where you can allow your heart to break for a part of the world I'm guessing most of my readers have never been and will never visit, I definitely recommend it. It tells the story better than the news, and now it has made the news stories come alive for me with a sharp pang somewhere deep in my belly.
Here's a little tiny excerpt, just to give a taste of the battle... battles:
The destruction was worse than he'd feared. Through a thin canopy of smoke, bomb craters, pulverized buildings, and puddles of fire passed below... Ghastly was what it was. Franco and Lily dead, Manfred slightly injured but in severe shock. Michael couldn't estimate how many others had been killed or severely injured. He was going to collect the survivors and the walking wounded and lead them to the airstrip on foot... They were carrying a body on a stretcher, covered by a blanket and attended by an assembly of eager flies whose buzzing was audible from several yards away.
That war ended but it's now coming back. This country needs our prayers... I don't know that anything else will help!
Because your hearts are big, I am trusting that my Imperfect Prose friends will not only accept me being a bit emotional and all-over-the-place, but maybe a few of you will pray too.