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Page 14
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<< 13. The Future of Struggle15. Camouflaged Blues >>

Doofus about Darfur and Genocide

By Horace Coleman

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Genocide is a word that mellows out and makes antiseptic and acceptable one of humanity's old habits. The current theater where genocide is playing is on the stage called Darfur, in a country called Sudan.

The first genocide I became aware of was the one America waged against Native Americans. We don't think often about the effects of westward expansion, the Indian Wars, or reservations. Or we justify them.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to mismanage Indian money and land. The circumstances of the indigenous people who stubbornly continue to exist don't often enter our thoughts. We think of them—if we do at all—mostly as brand names and place names. They're the names of mascots and athletic teams, or exotic and distant historic customs and individuals.

All it takes for genocide (a special form of extremely vicious war) to occur is:

• Someone who wants it done (just about anyone who can influence, persuade or convince large groups of people to do what they're already willing and wanting to do)

• People to approve of or accept doing it (finding or inventing needs, scapegoats, grievances; it helps to frame it as an easy way to "solve" problems and unease or to divert attention from what's really bothering people)

• A reason that justifies doing it (almost any excuse will do)

• Someone to do it to, and a way to do it

• Someone to not care about, not know about, condone, or ignore it

• Someone to not intervene, or to act weakly or too late

And that's how you get the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Biafra, Bosnia/Kosovo, Rwanda, and Chechnya, just to name a few randomly selected occurrences.

Darfur, for instance, is a struggle and dispute over natural resources, autonomy, and ethnic politics; it's nomads versus farmers, rebels versus an established government, climate changes, buttinskis from neighboring or distant countries. Hence we get:

Doofus about Darfur
or "It all depends on who has the power this hour!"

Sad babies' eyes fill with flies.
Their bellies blimp when
mothers' breasts go flat and limp.

The janjaweed, filling a need, ramble sand gardens
and see that young girls and women
searching for water and wood are well raped.

The African men of these African women mostly
fight, flee, and die by (stubborn rebels)
Arab blades, bullets, and bombs.

Outgunned browns and blacks succumb
(germs, oil drums, starvation, polluting politics)
to a government counting its cash.

The USA gives orders—but can't control its own borders.
Soldiers from the Un-united Nations (African branch)
bake in the sun and watch the fun.

The war and unrest spread genocidal threads
of sorrows that throttle or subside, but never settle.
History is no mystery.

We've done this so long, it's hard to get it wrong.
From time to time, acts produce crimes
that have reasons, but no rhymes. Except

People often need blood and bones
to grow and feed a justification for a deed;
it could be a clash of greed, creed, class, caste, or
what we mistakenly call "race" that opens
the season for getting in someone's face and snarling,
"I want what you got!" (Or, "You stole what I have!")
"So you're gonna get it!"

Human beings tend to forget that we're animals too (although divinely made so and placed at the top of the food chain, some say). Or we may have stopped, or at least paused in, evolving. Or perhaps we were fixed in capability and capacity at the beginning. We have the ability to pleasantly describe, define, or explain (rationalize) our motivations, needs, and actions. We tend to find it easy to accept—or overlook—the causes of our periodic beastliness.

Because it's "natural" or "historic," it's "inevitable." So the species doesn't need to change its ways. Time and change move like glaciers (minus the global warming).

Genocide is something we do because we can, even if it occasionally shames segments of the human species (a little, for a while). But we still manage to do it. Sic semper? Higher priorities?

But why are there Holocaust deniers and people who try to dismiss, repress, or ignore the genocide they caused or participated in? You'd think they'd be openly proud. Something, somewhere deep inside us, gets uneasy. Perhaps some of us—slightly and slowly, in a slight flicker—don't like what's happened. What's happening still.

Horace Coleman is a veteran, poet and writer. He is also a VVAW contact in California.

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