Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Blog for Darfur"

The Bull Moose might be on to something. In his post this morning, he suggests a "Blog for Darfur" day, "when the entire blogosphere calls for world intervention to stop the killing". We've heard about bloggers making a difference (the tired example of Trent Lott's ouster as Majority Leader comes to mind), and this seems like an excellent place to start.

Like the Bull Moose and others, I'm sick and tired of the network and cable media devoting 85% of their time to Terri Schiavo and Michael Jackson, with the other 15% divided between Bush's latest Bamboozepalooza whistlestop to tout his Social Security 'plans' and whatever health ailment / new miracle diet is the discussion piece du jour. I literally cannot remember the last time I saw a television news report about the ongoing tragedy in Darfur (and I watch a reasonably significant amount of news).

The print media has been somewhat more active ... but not much. A Lexis-Nexis search this morning reveals seven New York Times articles in March with 'Darfur' as a lead term, and eleven in the Washington Post, four of which appeared in that paper's "News in Brief" section. One, an editorial from Easter Sunday, is particularly current and timely. Only one piece, an excellent op-ed by actor Don Cheadle and John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group, has appeared in USA Today since the beginning of March.

Nicholas Kristof over at the Times has been active, with several columns appearing recently, including "The Secret Genocide Archive," which appeared on February 23. This column included a number of photographs gathered in Darfur by monitors employed by the African Union, of which there are apparently thousands. The few included were given to Kristof, he wrote, "by someone who believes that Americans will be stirred if they can see the consequences of their complacency." The photographs can be viewed here. Kristof writes at the end of his column "I'm sorry for inflicting these horrific photos on you. But the real obscenity isn't printing pictures of dead babies -- it's our passivity, which allows these people to be slaughtered." I'm sorry that I felt the need to link you to the pictures as well, but I'm sorrier still that those pictures even exist.

The State Department has called what's happening in Darfur genocide. The US has provided medical and food aid to refugees, but humanitarian convoys have recently been attacked, by the government-backed janjaweed militias, and aid workers are rarely able to venture outside protected zones. Our diplomats have drafted resolutions in the Security Council that have gone nowhere in the face of French and Chinese opposition. But where is American leadership on this issue? Why can our president interrupt his vacation, why can our Congress convene in the dark of night, to debate the fate of a single woman, when hundreds of thousands are dying in Darfur?

Where is the outrage? We said "never again" after Rwanda ten years ago, and yet here we are, glued to our Martha Stewart coverage, obsessing about the fates of fading pop stars and why we have to pay $2.25 a gallon for gas. When is enough enough? How many have to die before we act?

Look at the pictures. Read those editorials. Think about what matters. I know what I'd rather focus on. Do you? To all those folks outside Terri Schiavo's hospice I say this: If you have the time and the energy to spend your days protesting, put it to use. Get ye to Washington, and protest what's happening in Darfur. To the rest of us, let's not sit on our hands anymore. Former Senator Paul Simon said that if every member of Congress had received 100 letters calling for action in Rwanda, something would have been done. It's too late for the 350,000 who have already been killed, but there are millions more who would benefit from any effort at all on our parts.

If you have a blog, join "Blog for Darfur," and post about this issue as well. Let's see just how much we can do when we are united for a common cause.

For further reading/viewing:
- http://savedarfur.org/ and http://www.darfurgenocide.org/ have much information and good news digests on this issue.
- Mark Fiore recently did a very excellent animation on the concept of "never again ... again".


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