Monday, April 21, 2014

We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch

We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch. New York: Picador/ St. Martin's Press, 1998, 2011. e-book, 320 pps.

     The story of what happened in Rwanda in 1994 is horrifying. Philip Gourevitch made several extended trips there in order to capture what happened before, during, and after the genocide. On page 9, he tells us: The dead of Rwanda accumulated at nearly three times the rate of Jewish dead during the Holocaust. [Italics his]. And yet, the rest of the world paid hardly any heed to what was happening there with machetes.

     Those foreign powers who took note screwed things up more. At least one nation supported Hutu Power-- the folks who were doing the massacre-ing. The camps that were set up for the displaced actually housed many of the folks doing the killing, rather than the Tutsis and Tutsi sympathizers who were the targets.

     Rwanda today has many beautiful vistas. The land was terraced in order to help agriculture. Even so, blemishes remain in the form of mass graves and memorials. This year is the twentieth anniversary. The decimation that the people suffered is something to remember forever.

sapphoq reviews says: Philip Gourevitch's book gave me an education that I sorely needed. I had heard very little of the genocide and what I had heard was not accurate. That some churches would call for Rwandans to live side by side in peace-- people whose entire families were wiped out "forgiving their killers" in the "spirit of reconciliation"-- is beyond human comprehension. [The impression left by some church sites on the Interwebs that this is actually happening on a large scale in Rwanda turns out to be a bogus religious fantasy, i.m.o.] 
     Because the world's response was woefully inadequate, justice has been slow in coming or absent. A bunch of people ought to have been tried in World Court for crimes against humanity. Instead, Rwanda set up its own courts. The killers were divided into three tiers of responsibilities. Leaders were put to death. Their seconds were offered life sentences. And the rest perhaps eight years of imprisonment. Even so, some got away. They were aided and abetted by the setting up of the U.N. camps and later "welcomed back" to Rwanda as refugees.
     I've lived long enough to know that justice is no guarantee and that people do get away with horrid crimes. The promise that everything will be made right in some sort of afterlife rings hollow to the survivors who are still confronted with neighbors who pretty much "got away with it." 
     This book will test any lofty "do good" feelings not followed by meaningful action. Highly recommended to thinking human beings.
     Rwanda, I have never visited you [yet?] but I remember and howl with you in your grief. 
     Any mistakes in this review are my own.  

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