Internet Monk has a review of a powerful movie, Beyond the Gates, based on the genocide in Rwanda.
I was also stirred by a comment written by Tope, whose family is from Nigeria.
For background, I-Monk talks about a reporter in the movie:
As one character, a reporter, says, when she was in Bosnia, the dead women reminded her of her mother, but in Africa, the dead women are just another dead African.
Here is Tope’s response:
I appreciate the reporter’s honesty, in a way – she’s far more honest with herself and with others than most Americans are about how they see “Africa” (in quotes because Africa is a huge place, and I’ve never quite understood why people tend to lump such a diverse array of cultures, languages and nations into just “Africa”). The truth is many people in the western world think of us as less than completely human. It’s an attitude I think the western church in particular really needs to face and come to grips with, but I don’t see that happening soon.
I started to respond to that in a comment, but it quickly became so long I realized I should post it here and not hog up space there:
Tope, I’m sorry. I know that what you say is true, but I wish it were not so. I value differences so much (whether they be cultural or personality or whatever type of differences). It grieves me deeply when those differences become the grounds for isolating or looking down on other people.
Sometimes the response is to emphasize how we are all the same. I appreciate that from the perspective of affirming what we all share in common as equal human beings and as a way of building empathy and understanding.
But, I am saddened when the sameness is emphasized in a way that tries to hide wonderful differences. As a woman, I think about it in terms of wanting to be treated and valued equally, but not wanting that at the price of having to deny my femininity or try to prove to the world that I am “as good as a man” by becoming more like a man. In the same way, I want to be able to see, acknowledge and love cultural differences, without the differences being twisted by some into justification for patronizing, disdaining and demeaning attitudes towards people of another race or different culture.
I have not seen the movie, but I wonder if such attitudes are some of the “small steps” Michael refers to in the movie review. Disdaining or demeaning others (whether individuals or groups) for any reason lays a foundation to dehumanize, and that easily leads to being able “in good conscience” to take advantage of and eventually commit atrocities against those fellow human beings.
I do not know if I can handle the visual and emotional intensity of this movie (I hardly ever watch movies of any sort, because I feel everything I see so intensely). But I may try to watch this one. I certainly appreciate being made to think about and grapple with the awful realities of the Rwandan genocide again (and as a result, being forced to think about broader implications nearer to home). I cried my way through In My Country, with some vivid accounting of apartheid atrocities in South Africa. So, perhaps I could (and maybe should) see this film as well. Some things are worth not just being disturbed by, but also feeling deeply disturbed by. (There I go again, being semantically picky, but for me as a feeler, there is a substantial difference between being disturbed and Feeling disturbed.)
Although I’ve thought a lot about equality and commonality and differences, the ideas I tried to express above are not well formed in words inside my head, and definitely not a concrete philosophy. I feel a little vulnerable, then, throwing these not very well formed ideas out, but I’m going to try to follow Lingamish in his bold “write and post it when I feel it passionately” example.