Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed
This past Friday, New York became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage. This apartment celebrated by cheering loudly and then immediately taking to Twitter to post our happy reactions. (Me: New York, you’re my jam. See you at the Pride PARADE on Sunday. #NY4M Jazmine: HOOR(G)AYS! Rachel: #ny4m) Amidst the overall joyful Facebook status updates and tweets, however, I did spot a few posts that sang a different tune. A few of Conn’s most active members in the LGBTQ community ‘got real’ on us, pointing out that although the legalization of gay marriage in New York was a victory, there was still much work to be done in terms of securing equal rights for all. I was immediately reminded of my own frustrations that I have encountered in the first few weeks of my internship.
These aren’t your standard “how many times do I have to make a coffee run before I do some real work” frustrations. I’m talking about the irritation that comes with reading the news. My internship duties are primarily research-oriented, whether it be finding articles to be included in educational curricula, fact-checking details in the film, or locating video and audio clips to be included in the film. We are currently in post-production on a documentary film about genocide, a heavy topic that is often met with the question, “What specific genocides? That’s a pretty broad topic.” It is indeed a broad topic, which comes from an unfortunate history of repeated genocides around the world. To answer the question, I’ll let the description on our website speak for itself:
Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “A Problem From Hell,” Watchers of the Sky explores genocide and the world’s response. Interweaving the lives of four contemporary human rights visionaries, the film sets out to uncover the exceptional story of Raphael Lemkin, a forgotten humanitarian who coined the term ‘genocide’ and almost single handedly convinced the UN to pass the Genocide Convention. Filmed over the course of six years, from Chad to Belarus to Rwanda to the UN and back, the film has an anticipated release of Fall 2010. (Source: Propeller Films)
No matter what I am researching, I always seem to hit the same stumbling block: there is nothing to be found. This mostly pertains to my research relating to the current situation in Sudan, particularly in the Abyei region on the border between north and south Sudan. I’m frustrated when I can’t find a video or audio clip that calls the events in Abyei ‘ethnic cleansing’ not only because that makes my job more difficult, but also because that means this time sensitive issue is not being reported on enough. Or, at least, it is not present enough on online media sources. Yes, I am able to find a fair amount of news articles, but in an increasingly multimedia-dependent society, I should be able to find more in terms of video and audio reporting.
The situation in Abyei is dismal. South Sudan is due to become independent on July 9, but the contested Abyei region, which did not vote on the decision for independence, is a site of war rather than celebration. The region has significance for its role in the country’s oil industry and for the Ngok Dinka people, who claim the area as their homeland. Northern armies have been decimating the region and wiping out its inhabitants, leading many to claim that what is happening is ethnic cleansing and genocide, just like what has happened in Sudan’s Darfur region. The International Criminal Court has put out a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, but he currently remains free to continue waging war while simultaneously denying his role in the disaster.
Like my fellow activists in the LGBTQ community, I am disheartened by the lack of significant progress for gay rights. And, with my involvement in the production of this documentary film on genocide, my eyes have been opened to the similar lack of action in regions suffering ethnic cleansing, like Abyei. The title of this post comes from The Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and has always been a favorite lyric of mine. It is true that too often we choose to turn away from bad news in favor of only focusing on the good. While it is important to celebrate victories like the legalization of gay marriage in New York, it is even more important for us not to forget that there is still more work to be done. While it can be said that the United States does not need to become involved with any more foreign issues, it can also be argued that matters such as genocide are world issues. History has proved that world leaders will continue to use genocide as a war tactic if it is not appropriately addressed and punished. Still, even if we do not act as a nation, it is essential for us as individuals to be aware of the injustices in our world, so that we may spread the word and seek change.
Keep your eyes open,