A smidge of justice

May 2, 2011

I’m starting to write this as my fellow student licks yogurt from a bowl with big eyes and burns herself every five seconds in the kitchen. Paper-writing has ensued, clubbing skirts are getting shorter and shorter, while temperaments are becoming curiouser and curiouser…

First, a little Rwanda-spouting – it’s been pretty scenically beautiful lately, what with mists in the hills/rainclouds passing in front of your face because of the elevation/leaves and flowers hanging out in the afternoon sun, etc. Also I’ve been listening to instrumental music that was made with the Appalachians in mind, and it absolutely reminds me of American landscapes (if not the Appalachians, rural Wisconsin I’d say, or my childhood front yard at sunset during the summer. But that’s just general). So I’m feeling more what it means to be attached to a familiar physical place. And even if I didn’t grow up in Rwanda and I don’t associate memories with its lovely landscape, I understand how some Rwandans subscribe to the proverb that “God spends the day elsewhere but he sleeps in Rwanda.” Maybe I’ve talked about this in a previous blog, actually, but it’s worth spitting out again.

And now for some justice! And musings on Osama bin Laden’s death. The organizer behind the major attacks on American soil, people, and the symbols/gathering points of world trade was killed by American soldiers. This reeks awfully of justice served, or how someone voiced it “America – 1, Osama -0” (which is technically incorrect given the circumstances). But as I’m learning this semester and that ol’ Gandhi preached, an eye for an eye tends to fail miserably as a strategy for solving conflict. How are we measuring justice by the death of bin Laden? Does his life equal the roughly 3,000 lives killed on September 11th, or the thousands of other victims targeted by his network of terrorism? If we equate his death to justice, that really doesn’t do each of those people justice, does it? I may continue asking rhetorical questions…

Estimates of Rwandans killed during the genocide range from 800,000 to 1.3 million. The number of those guilty, or genocidaires as they were called, also number into the 800,000s (the total population of Rwanda was about 10-11 million). If those thousands of people need to be killed for the survivors to move on and feel that justice has been served, well, let’s not allow that to be an option. Ultimately the perpetrators are not evil at heart (which many survivors have acknowledged), and it is upbringing that instills attitudes which lead to violence. Killing people does not kill those attitudes; it amplifies negative sentiments and leads to more complicated ones.

Bin Laden’s death has allegedly made big strides toward the end of global terror. To me, it seems to be just the symbolic catalyst for people to believe that terror (against the United States) is over. While ideas for the organization of al-Qaeda may have been his, there no doubt remains strong organizational networks of terror all over the world, from the United States to Sudan to Iraq to Mexico. Global terror did not start, and will not end, with the destruction of one person, and to use bin Laden as a lightning rod for “the end of terrorism” and for atrocities committed by millions of people all over the world does not do the gravity of the situation justice in the least.

I hope America specifically wasn’t waiting for ten years to kill bin Laden and then think about pursuing peace – oh wait, we were. The hunger for justice and “hunting” the primary perpetrator down consumed the national agenda and budget for a decade. Now that we snatched our prey, sorry for the hunting lingo but that’s what we were doing as developed First World 21st century humans, what is our goal going to be? As we know from romantic pursuits, the chase is sometimes the best part. (And if love and war can be equated, that saying also applies. Maybe making a theoretical stretch here…) Hopefully our future chase (speaking as an American) doesn’t attach national feelings of anger and resentment toward one person.

I’ll go brain-vomit elsewhere now, but that’s my opinion as an American grrl who feels wistful for rural Wisconsin, teared up after Jon Stewart’s Daily Show speech concerning September 11th and when Bush watched someone else take his spot as national leader.  I don’t take for granted our free speech and peaceful power transfers, but hopefully we generally mature a bit, and have more of a “work” mentality than “hunt”.

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One Response to “A smidge of justice”

  1. Lisa Steinberg said

    Your blogs have been brilliant, thoughtful and thought-provoking for me. Wondering if you’d be open to being interviewed by a college student, regarding your experience and knowledge of genocide. Thank you for considering this.

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