In yesterday’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff gave it its proper name: "The First Genocide of The 21st Century." It’s about time. We need a good slogan to start acting, and that includes not only political leaders, but bloggers, too.
Kristoff has been counting the days since President Bush last mentioned Darfur and the genocide and it is now over 150. He wants Condeleeza Rice to go to Africa and see what is really going on. Having been there myself I know she won’t come back unmoved or unchanged, Kofi Annan didn’t. However, I am curious about what happened when Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick went to Sudan last month. He was photographed with Sudanese Government officials sympathetic to the Janjaweed militia, and we heard about “intelligence cooperation.” We did not hear about unassigned oilfields in Southern Darfur, Chinese oil interests in Sudan (over 40% of Sudan’s oil exports go to China, which represents nearly 10% of Chinese imports), or about a no-fly zone to curtail the ongoing genocide in Darfur.
On Monday Barack Obama and Richard Luger wrote eloquently about the need to see Asian avian flu as a threat to national security, which may well prove to be true, but that observation raises the same issue. In America, we only care about what goes on overseas if and when it affects us personally, whether it be a terrorist attack on US soil, US dead in Iraq or bird flu here not ‘over there’.
This is not entirely surprising. We elected a President who had barely traveled overseas, less than 12% of Americans hold passports and most people care more about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes than 300,000 dead in Darfur or species-jumping viruses in Asia.
We should start to care. As Martin Luther King famously said “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny... whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” There is no better time than at the start of a new century to embrace this teaching and to start caring enough about our fellow man overseas to make genocide a term coined in the last century and ended as this one begins.
The fish may stink from the head down, but change can and does come from the grassroots up -- and what better place to start a groundswell than a blog full of talented thinkers? So I say, “Arianna, as this is the first genocide of the 21st Century, why not keep track of the Darfurian dead, too, and the number of days since President Bush last mentioned Darfur, along with the Iraqi dead, Hollywood politics and Deep Throat?”
A blog that closely tracks what goes on overseas and is committed to reporting the information would be a powerful tool for change and good.