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Raymond J. Learsy Headshot

The Inauguration and the Historical Spectre of Genocide

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Have we ever seen such a sea of people? Some million souls joining together on the Washington Mall in solemn, prideful and joyous celebration of a new administration in the hope of a new direction for the nation and for the world. Wishful thinking, misguided optimism, perhaps. But given the dimensions of history and failures that are engulfing the present generation the power of that yearning becomes its own beacon of hope and essential guide.

Looking out at that sea of humanity provided a lesson in history by extrapolation in and of itself. Making what had been for most of us an abstract cipher now became concrete in its observed real time size and dimension. A million people, perhaps more. Have we ever had the possibility of experiencing the enormous visual impact of what a million people gathered together looks like? Not to my recollection.

And yet, in grimmer recollection, this sea of humanity is the approximate dimension of the near million men women and children of Tutsi heritage slaughtered in Rwanda by Hutu militias and co-conspirators only fifteen years ago. This outrage, beginning in April 1994 and according to the United Human Rights Council carried out in 100 days with the murder of 800,000 innocents with clubs and machetes, with gunshots and grenades often taking a murderous toll of more than 10,000 lives each day. All this while the world not only stood silently by, but no substantive effort was made to evacuate the threatened Tutsis and to their shame the United States, France, Belgium and Italy withdrew their forces, contingents that might have offered some protection to the Tutsi minority. Had we understood what a million human lives meant in its visual dimension alone, rather than in the abstract, perhaps, just perhaps, we might have acted to stop the slaughter.

Almost concurrent with the Inauguration itself, news came that the obscenity of ridiculing the Holocaust by the Iranian government and its vile President Ahmadinejad has taken a new and contorted twist. A book of caricatures and satirical writing about the Holocaust is to be published at a ceremony later this month when a message from President Ahmadinejad will be read. This according to the Iran's Fars News Agency. The endorsement of this twisted malevolence will be further enhanced by the attendance of Iranian government officials at its presentation ceremony on January 27th.

In an almost ironic turn, the sea of joyous humanity on the Mall in Washington in celebratory triumph, gave us a snapshot of what a million people looked like. It gave us some inkling of the sheer and overwhelming size of what was perhaps humanity's greatest crime, the sadistic murder of six million European and North African Jewish men women and children by a hate crazed German nation. Six times the ocean of humanity we witnessed on Tuesday!

Let that vast gathering be a guiding light to this administration and all peoples. That genocide in any dimension can and will no longer be tolerated. That our tribal hatreds must be contained and brought to an end be they in Sudan, the Middle East or wherever in this world they continue to fester. With the power of destruction at hand vastly greater today than the tools of past exterminations, be they biological, chemical or nuclear the very espousal of genocide by radical elements of the world's political and ecclesiastical hierarchy must cease. And let it be a priority of this administration to see to it that it does!