University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
Oral History Item Type Metadata
I think what happens in a conflict context where you have mass atrocities or genocide being committed is that generally the population at that time of that event is reluctant or hesitant to believe that it’s actually happening, because these are truly unimaginable actions or conducts that are taking place. I mean, who could adequately understand or conceive that someone would actually go and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of people? So, when the international community becomes aware of this during a given conflict, I think the first reaction may to be one of disbelief, and then after that it’s “Hopefully it will go away.” But unfortunately, the track records show that these things do not go away, and that they often escalate into what we now know as called genocide. So, what I would hope is that people pay attention to the early warning signs. That people monitor these situations and take actions, apply whatever pressure is necessary in order to prevent it or to stop it from happening. The upside, if there is an upside to all of this, is that hopefully we learn from our mistakes and we can prevent it from happening in the future.
I think human beings are in denial because human beings cannot believe that another human would do these things. When you see a mass grave of hundreds—sometimes thousands, as you had in Rwanda—of people just piled on top of one another, mutilated, having been sexually violated, and left out to rot so that dogs or other animals could eat the corpse, you just don’t want to believe it. It’s something that you just want to put out of your mind and pretend it never happened. It might even be human nature because it is so horrific. And in fact, I think it takes a extra amount of energy, or even a special person, to actually open up your mind and really focus on it, pay attention and try to do something about it, because it’s easy to walk away and go back to your life and get into your car, go to the park and say, “Well that’s happening on the other side of the world; that’s not happening here. Those people are barbaric over there; that would never happen here.” But we’re all human beings. Unfortunately, it’s in or within any group to do such a thing.