Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Reality and Idol

Today I will talk about something that is related to politics, but not political. In fact, I have no idea how this relates to politics at the moment. This is about people's lives, and people's pipe dreams. It will all make sense soon, do not worry.

I took two guys, neither of which was my fiance, to the movies today. Tony and Josh, my classmates in African Political Systems accompanied me on a 45 minute drive to watch "Hotel Rwanda." This movie concerns the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. Something America did nothing about. The UN was of little help either. At that time the Europeans also abandoned the country of Rwanda.

I cried several times during the film. It is an intense drama, although not as sad as I thought it would be. In fact, not to give anything away, but the main characters ended up better off than I expected. It is the true story of a hotel manager during the Rwandan genocide who tried to save a lot of people's lives. Without showing much gore or violence the director portrayed a heartrending saga of events.

How does one explain what I saw in that film? It was torment to know that the United States did nothing to halt the genocide. It was torment to realize that even if our armed forces had been sent in to help little or nothing could have been accomplished that way. The only way we could have kept more than a million people from dying would have come through the establishment of refugee camps. The United Nations set up a few badly organized, small refugee camps and saved some people. They did not save enough people. Refugee camps came into play only after the Tutsi rebels had erected a boundary between themselves and the Hutus. Then the UN made camps and started shuttling people out of the country. Prior to that, security remained too feeble to do anything for the people. Safe havens, a way to get to those havens, and a way to keep those havens safe could have rescued many lives. But all that came late and even then the organization remained lacking.

At one point in the movie I saw the face of Bill Clinton smiling on the front cover of a magazine in the background. All I could think of was his pathetic apology to the Rwandan people in 1998. He said something to this effect, "Who could look at one of these adorable Tutsi children and then bash their brains out." (PARAPHRASE, not a quotation) The logical response is as follows: "These people did exactly that, whether it is fathomable by us or not."

The director showed the Western response to the genocide clearly: all non-Rwandans, American or European, were evacuated from the country. They left behind the UN peace keepers who were not allowed to shoot anyone and the people who lived every moment in fear for their lives and the lives of what family they still had. A missionary arrived at the time of the evacuation, delighted that he could get his people out of the country. The European troops evacuating Europeans and Americans quickly destroyed his joy. Only white people could leave the country, all Africans stayed.

In contrast to this horror, I watched American Idol, my favorite tv show at 8pm. I had a difficult time watching the show after the movie I had seen earlier. Silly people bounced about, either excited about the prospects of moving on to another round, or upset over the homeward turn their Hollywood experience had suddenly taken. Randy and Paula entered two rooms in tears because they had to send people home. Yet in Rwanda, eleven years ago, hundreds of thousands were massacred.

There is nothing wrong with a little excitement over a fun tv show. Nothing wrong with following a dream to become a star like the previous American Idol winners. Heck, I have lots of fun watching American Idol.

Yet the show lacked something for me tonight. It lacked reality. These people, so caught up in their little pipe dreams had no sense of reality. Reality does not have to be cold and hard. However, it ought to have some foundation in the things that happen in this world. It ought not to follow only one person's pursuit of singing for "America." When the losers in American Idol walk off the set acting as if their lives are over it strikes me as incredibly silly. After all, they are under thirty. There is so much more they can do with their lives. They have grounded their future on one tv show that probably will not go on for more than a few more seasons if that.

And all around the world people have died because those who have stuff do not pay attention to the reality that exists beyond their idols.

1 comment:

Xana Ender said...

Bush met with the real hotel Rwanda person and he said what's going on in the Sudan is similar