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Overcoming speechlessness: A poet encounters “the horror” in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel

August 2, 2009

…. But both South Africa and Rwanda present
a model of restorative justice in their Truth and Reconciliation
Councils. Some crimes against humanity are so heinous nothing will ever
rectify them. All we can do is attempt to understand their causes and
do everything in our power to prevent them happening, to anyone, ever
again. Human beings are intelligent and very often, compassionate. We
can learn to heal ourselves without inflicting fresh wounds.

a video recently about Cuba’s role in the ending of apartheid in South
Africa, I was moved by the testimony of Pik Botha, once a high ranking
official of white South Africa. He talked about how liberating it had
been when South Africa was forced to attend talks prior to negotiating
Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and a change from a fascist white
supremacist regime to a democratic society. He said the feeling of not
being hated and feared and treated like a leper everywhere he went was
wonderful. The talks were held in Egypt and for the first time he felt
welcomed by the Egyptians and took the opportunity to visit the
pyramids and the Sphinx and to ride on a camel! As a white supremacist
representative of a repressive, much hated government, he’d never felt
relaxed enough to do that. His words demonstrate what we all know in
our hearts to be true: allowing freedom to others, brings freedom to
ourselves. It is true that what one reads in the papers sometimes about
the birthing pains of the New South Africa can bring sadness, alarm,
and near despair. But I doubt that anyone in South Africa wishes to
return to the old days of injustice and violence that scarred whites
and blacks and coloureds so badly. Not just citizens of South Africa
were demoralized, oppressed and discouraged by white South Africa’s
behavior, but citizens of the world. Israel helped keep the racist
regime in power in South Africa, giving it arms and expertise, and
still the people of the world, in our outrage at the damage done to
defenseless people, rose to the challenge of setting them free. That is
what is happening today in Palestine.

The world has found its
voice and though the horror of what we are witnessing in places like
Rwanda and Congo and Burma and Israel/Palestine threatens our very
ability to speak, we will speak. And we will be heard.

Read the whole entry.


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