The image of the face of the Congolese woman resting on the pink and blue blanket is grafted onto the frontal lobe of my brain -- the repository of my knowledge of good and evil, my emotions, and my memories. It is just a face. It has no skull structure, no bones, and no body to give it context.
The face is the remnant of a person who lived in Congo before Congo Army (FARDC) helicopter gunships blew up a village by mistake in their relentless pursuit of M23 rebel forces. The woman's soul is elsewhere, but her face offers silent testimony to atrocity. Civilian collateral damge has happened before, but this is the first time international media has recognized that something is going terribly wrong in eastern Congo. President Bertrand Bisimwa of the rebel M23 political and military movement said the attack on the rebel-held Rumangabo camp, 25 miles north of Goma, killed civilians, according to the Washington Post.
I feel like a crazy person when I wonder what it would be like to have the face transplanted onto mine. It is medically possible. Would the woman be able to speak through me? Would the world finally listen to the voices of the innocent who are raped and mutilated and finally bombed into fragments?
The village where the face lived (Photo from M23 press release)
Burial in the face's village (Photo M23)
Certainly the grafting of a face of a Congolese woman onto a white American would be a media sensation. I could speak through lips that were silenced and use her nostrils as a conduit for life-giving oxygen. I would see through my own eyes, but use her countenance to tell the stories of her village and her loved ones. Her mouth would speak the truths now stored in my frontal lobe -- the knowledge of evils seen but just as soon forgotten.
Would I exploit the face if I used it in this manner?
No one listened to the face when it was attached to a woman living in the village, but the world would never have enough of the face once it is grafted onto the white woman from the U.S. Talk shows, lectures, book deals and media tours would make the face a universal sensation.
Ironically the U.S. is responsible for the face that rests on the pink and blue blanket in Congo. Maybe the face would ask the question no one is asking. Why is the international community providing military aid to FARDC while they blow up villages? Why are we sending drones to MONUSCO while they are supporting FARDC's monstrous corpse desecrations of M23 casualties last week and the rapes last year of 102 women and 33 girls, some as young as six, in Minova by US-trained troops? Inner City Press reports that the 391st battalion was implicated in both the rapes and the desecrations. It was trained by the United States "as a model for future reforms within the Congolese armed forces," according to AFRICOM.
I wish I could graft the face onto my own. It is an insane wish. For now the face will remain wedded to my frontal lobe as a permanent reminder of evil.