A War Veteran: A word that I hope will become obsolete

Jacques Tardi. C'était la guerre des tranchées. Casterman, 1993

I am never quite sure how to feel or respond on Veteran’s day, other than sadness for those who have been to war, or worse, didn’t make it back.

Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front. 1928/29
Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front. 1928/29
“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

Wrote Erich Maria Remarque in All Quiet on the Western Front in 1928, about the brutality of war. Jacques Tardi wrote about Trench Warfare in 1993, and 2008. They weren’t alone in their anti-war sentiments.

Jacques Tardi. C'était la guerre des tranchées. Casterman, 1993
Jacques Tardi. C’était la guerre des tranchées. Casterman, 1993
Jacques Tardi. Putain de Guerre! Casterman, 2008
Jacques Tardi. Putain de Guerre! Casterman, 2008

While many in the US are enjoying the “Tale of Princess Kaguya”, they may have never seen the  “Grave of Fire Flies” (火垂るの墓, Hotaru no haka) a 1988 Japanese animated anti-war film written and directed by the very same Isao Takahata and animated by Studio Ghibli .

Yet, we continue on “unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay(ing) one another”.

There are people who lived because of war, such as when the allied troops put an end to a hateful anti-Semitic despot’s march across Europe. There are people who died, because we did nothing, such as when the Hutus slaughtered the Tutsis.

Irrespective of whether the war was justified or not, what is worse is that our veterans who actually faced the horrors (that I can only try to comprehend) lack adequate care.

So, while I never know how to respond on Veteran’s Day, there are only things that I am sure of:

#1. Veterans need better care and benefits

#2. We have a responsibility to protect the innocent, but not greedy right to war.

May be one day we will all get along, Ed McCurdy’s (and my) dream will come true, and the word Veteran will become obsolete.

Rwanda: Twenty Years Later – To Forget or Not to Forget?

Aditi Raychoudhury. Memorial Design for the Genocide in Rwanda. 2008.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Memorial Design for the Genocide in Rwanda. 2008.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Memorial Design for the Genocide in Rwanda. 2008.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Memorial Design for the Genocide in Rwanda. 2008.
Aditi Raychoudhury. Memorial Design for the Genocide in Rwanda. 2008.

 

On April 7th, 2014, Rwandans commemorated the 20th anniversary of one of the worst massacres in history.

Seven years ago, I had written a paper on design as an aid for reconciliation and memorialization. Here is a  excerpt from that report.

I am young, I am twenty years old;
yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear,
and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow.
I see how peoples are set against one another,
and in silence, unknowingly,
foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.

– Paul Baumer in ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque, 1929

Every year, in April, the rains fall heavy on Rwanda. The earth turns green. New life begins. It is the growing season. Twenty years ago, in April, along with the rains, came, not life, but death. The earth turned red – soaked with the blood of over a million Tutsis and Hutus.

Every year, the rains ebb in July – as did the genocide in 1994. Over ten percent of the population had been decimated by then – their bloated bodies floated down the freshly replenished Kagera river, and all the way to Lake Victoria. It was the most efficient mass killing since Hiroshima. In Hiroshima, they used bombs. In Rwanda, they used machetes.

Now, every year in April, along with the rains, comes “Kwibuka” (Rwandan for “Remember”) – a government driven effort to remember, reflect, reconcile and unite; an effort to restore dignity to the men, women and children who died; unborn babies, too, ripped out of wombs and smashed with unimaginable brutality. It is an effort to reflect on the neatly organized rows of fractured skulls, femurs, ribs and every other bony part that has been collectively memorialized.

But for those who survive, along with the rains, come a flood of memories – “of despair, death, fear and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow.”

Anger and bewilderment still hangs over Rwanda – just like those dark, rumbling clouds before the rains. The call for remembrance, reflection, reconciliation and unity is hard to heed. For many Rwandans, the rains haven’t come. Spring hasn’t come. Life hasn’t begun. Continue reading

Jacques Tardi

 

Jacques Tardi. C'était la Guerre des Tranchées. 1993.
Jacques Tardi. C'était la Guerre des Tranchées. 1993.

In my recent conquest to find illustrators who tackled subjects that interest me, I discovered Jacques Tardi. I have not read any of his ‘albums’ (as comic books are called in France) yet – except for what I can glean from the wonderful internet. As with Tintin and Asterix, why is it that these European comic books have not been popular in the US?

An Inspiration for Me, and Whoever Else

A friend of mine emailed it to me this morning. I wanted to remember it. Thought my blog was a suitable place.

Speech by Dr. Marten Luther King
delivered at Riverside Church, New York City, April 4th, 1967

“A time comes when silence is betrayal. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men [sic] do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.” Continue reading

I Was on BBC!

My two cents on today’s debate on Darfur. You can listen to it at World Have Your Say.

“I was 100% anti-military of any kind, till I read about the failure of humanity in Rwanda – Now I am convinced that there is something good about a Just War. The world should engage in a swift, and ‘humane’ mulitlateral intervention in Darfur. Diplomacy has been unsuccessful so far, and will take a lot of time. In the meantime, more will have died.”

Darfur: Whose Responsibility to Protect?

What do you think of the meeting in Paris – without the involvement of the AU? Does the International Community mean US, EU [and China]? Is segregated diplomacy enough?

You already know what I think. Most of the others don’t think military intervention is the best idea. For a peacenik like me, the failure to protect in Rwanda, convinced me that there can be something called a “Just War”. I think this is an opportunity for the US to use its bulldozing tactics for a good cause, and polish its tarnished image.

An exciting debate on BBC. Listen at World Have Your Say.

Read on the NYT.

Darfur: A Just War? (By Sergio)

It is important to outline that the Darfur conflict is a conflict that has been going on for several decades. The causes of the conflict are complex and can’t be attributed to a single government or ethnicity.

Tribes in the Darfur region have been engaged in an ongoing conflict for centuries. The identity of the war is neither ideological nor religious; it is primarily an ethnic conflict. It is the most difficult to deal with because it involves culture, parentage, race and many other factors too difficult or even impossible to change.

Therefore, acknowledging the difficult situation Darfur is going through, we can have a much clearer perspective of what is going on, and most important, if there a viable solution for the problem… is military intervention a legitimate and efficient tool to end or at least ameliorate this tragedy? Continue reading

Darfur: Never Again? Or Again, and Again?

I was engaged in an academic debate recently -“Should the International Community militarily intervene in Darfur?” For me, it was an unequivocal, “Yes!!”

It is that time again in the journey of mankind. The one we call the “greatest humanitarian crisis”, “ a terrible mass atrocity” or some such pitiful phrase. The last century had plenty. We shook our heads. Leaders, lawyers and diplomats pontificated. Continue reading

Rwanda: What Do You See?

skulls.jpg

“The dead at Nyarubuye were, I’m afraid, beautiful. There was no getting around it. The skeleton is a beautiful thing. The randomness of the fallen forms, the strange tranquillity of their rude exposure, the skull here, the arm bent in some uninterpretable gesture there–these things were beautiful, and their beauty only added to the affront of the place. I couldn’t settle on any meaningful response: revulsion, alarm, sorrow, grief, shame, incomprehension, sure, but nothing truly meaningful.”

-Philip Gourevitch (We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda)

I haven’t been to Rwanda – but I have seen the pictures, read the words, and jotted a few myself. No, I am not confused. Probably because I haven’t been there. Probably because I haven’t accidentally scrunched a bone under my feet, nor have I been assaulted by rows of skulls cracked open, or the bewildered eyes of those who live today.

The words and pictures of Rwanda’s genocide, overwhelm me with an angry sorrow. Continue reading