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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Complicity in the face of death

    Sam Feldmancolumnist
    Sam Feldman

    Naked women. Mutilated bodies. Gun-slinging soldiers. If only I were referring to Halloween night antics.

    But tragically, these are among the shocking and gruesome images leaking out of Darfur.

    Let’s recap. Darfur is a region in western Sudan. The janjaweed militias in the area are generally nomadic and speak only Arabic, while most Darfur tribes are sedentary and speak ethnic languages and Arabic. Most sources call the janjaweed militias Arab, wheras Darfur tribes are identified as African.

    The janjaweed, supported by the Sudanese government, are attacking groups within Darfur. So far, over 400,000 people have been killed and 2 million have been driven from their homes.

    I follow this tragedy fairly frequently, and some of that information was new to me. So it is no surprise that most Americans are religiously ignorant of the horrible crimes occurring in this tortured region. We’d much rather watch a new daily episode of “”Fashion House”” than deal with the daily loss of hundreds of lives.

    For the 400,000 dead and 2 million displaced, this is what typical attacks from the militia have looked like: First, at dawn, Sudanese airplanes drop bombs on the village from the air. Then the janjaweed arrive on camel, horseback or even Sudanese military vehicles and begin to divide the village by gender. The men are mutilated and killed, the women are indiscriminately raped, often multiple times, and the children must watch both if they are not murdered themselves. I sit here watching “”Deal or No Deal,”” and my inaction seems criminal, at worst, and morally repugnant at best.

    The facts are simple about the conflict in Darfur: It is genocide. The U.S. has called it such, along with nearly every Western country. The United Nations rejects calling it outright genocide because, it seems, calling it such officially would activate the 1948 Convention on Genocide, which requires the action of member states. So why is the international community not acting?

    The most believable explanation for inaction here and abroad is that we simply do not care.

    One or both of two disheartening phenomena must explain why we do not care. One is that Americans value the few American lives over the many dead in Darfur. The other is that we simply know little about it and therefore cannot care.

    The first explanation is simple and sad. It says we do not care because we value the life of Americans over the lives of theDarfur residents. I literally pray to God that this is not true – that life is valuable to us no matter the race or nationality.

    The second explanation is even more tragic; that we do not care because we rarely hear about Darfur is an equally worrisome problem. It means that Americans are receiving less and less information about world events and increasingly are viewing only meaningless entertainment.

    Entertainment and information used to be linked – during World War II, newsreels were played before all movies. The reels reported events happening from around the world. Now, one need not watch any information before consuming mindless entertainment.

    “”The Simple Life”” has no preceding news information, and I doubt Nicole Richie, let alone much of the rest of America, could find Sudan on a map. Even “”MTV News”” is now significantly celebrity-related news, and our local news covers national celebrity stories with regular frequency. Hard information and international tragedies are being pushed to little-watched, “”serious news programs”” like “”60 Minutes,”” and even then Darfur is infrequently covered. Edward R. Murrow, the journalist who fought the Communist-scare-era McCarthy hearings, worried about this problem in his 1958 keynote speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Association.

    Murrow said that if television “”is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.””

    In this struggle for information, it’s not only Americans who lose. The lives of millions in Darfur rest on our ability to act. And you can do something. Visit and donate to the cause. Write letters. Most of all, talk about it.

    Paying attention to only entertainment comes at the price of human life. If we allow genocide to happen, what will future generations say of our inaction?

    Sam Feldman is a junior majoring in Spanish and political science. He can be reached at

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