I just got home from seeing Hotel Rwanda
. I'm an emotional basketcase at the moment, alternating between desperation and white hot rage. The film brought forth so many things for me. This diary won't be about the genocide itself; I don't know enough to write about that. Instead, it's just going to be my reactions and thoughts. I hope it makes sense.
I don't want to write a film review. I do want to say, though go see this film. Underlying the film (and Don Cheadle's brilliant performance) is a righteous moral outrage. Nearly one million people were killed in about 100 days. Think about that--10,000 people killed per day, most of them hacked to death with machetes. And we, as Joaquin Phoenix's character notes, said, "That's too bad, and went back to eating our dinner." We turned our heads.
There are many people responsible for this. Of course, the Belgian colonists who created the Hutu/Tutsi hierarchy deserve blame. Of course, the evil people who organized this deserve blame. I'm opposed to the death penalty but I feel like life in prison is too good for the leader of interhamwe. The leadership of the international community deserves blame for not doing anything.
I left the movie, though, hating Bill Clinton. I've always had issues with the man, but I think I actually hate him now. Don't anyone ever tell me he was a great president. Great presidents don't allow this kind of genocide to occur. There was one point in the film where a DeeDee Myers press conference was played on the radio. This is the press conference where she says there are reports of "genocidal activities" occuring, but won't say there's actually genocide. I actually blurted out "fuck you, DeeDee Myers" in the theater. I hope no one who was in the administration at that time ever sleeps a full night through again. I hope the ghosts of the dead haunt them for the rest of their days. The moral bankruptcy of Bill Clinton was never more clear.
The bigger thing that's sticking with me, though, is the same nagging question I had after going to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and Anne Frank's House in Amsterdam: What would I have done?
I think all of us want to believe we would take the same actions Paul Rusesabagina did, that we would protect our fellow humans. I want to believe I would have been a person who would have hidden Jews during the Holocaust. If I am to be completely honest with myself, though, I have to admit that I don't know what I would do. After all, Rusesabagina risked his own life to protect these people. The movie shows how he was named specifically by the Hutu radio announcers (more people for whom life imprisonment is too good) as a traitor. I can't say for sure that I would risk my life in that way. I truly want to believe I would. I don't know, though.
This realization is difficult. It calls me to question my own morality. I try to do the right thing. I try to take actions that will improve people's lives--that's the basis of my politics. However, if I am to be honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that I don't know what I'd do in a situation like this. That acknowledgement itself is painful.
I think that's it. I need to go cry.