• President Obama Quote

    And just as we identify with the victims, it's also important for us I think to remember that the perpetrators of such evil were human, as well, and that we have to guard against cruelty in ourselves. -President Obama after his speech Buchenwald concentration camp

My Essay

I have hit a wall right now with my last section of my paper. I simply do not know where to go with it right now. Hopefully I will be able to get my brain pumping again but in the meantime I stare hopelessly at the computer screen hoping for something to happen. Not to worry however, I will be prepared for my presentation.

Disconnecting the threads: Rwanda and the Holocaust reconsidered

 This article by Rene Lemarchand describes the fact that Rwanda and the Holocaust are in fact horrible genocides but have different characteristics. Both of the events are horrible atrocities and the point is brought up that “human beings are capable of committing the most heinous crimes”.  This idea is really terrible and once again I am struggling with this. That is a tangent however and the main point is the genocide. Both acts of genocide are similar because they are in fact genocide but there are different means and different ends. This simply proves that genocide can happen in many different forms and it is all in the classifying that makes them genocide.

Third section of the essay

This section is not in order of the other two and is going to be inserted in another area to be determined.

One aspect of genocidal acts is connecting the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of Rwanda. One part of that is the historical context for which the victims can be placed. William Miles discusses the idea that both the Jews and Tutsis were viewed by themselves and others as the chosen people (Miles p. 107-109). This idea comes from the stories of Genesis and the terms of labeling in this region came from Noah’s sons. While all may not accept this, the idea brings about a valid point that historically these two groups of people were seen as similar and having a chosen ancestry. Miles goes further to say “in the 19th century Jewish attributes were ascribed to Tutsis, thanks to a purported historical linkage dating back to ancient migrations” (Miles p. 110). These two groups were supposed to be the intelligent among lesser people and that continued difference supported the hatred that festered within the others who were not such intelligent civilized people. The Jews and the Tutsis were almost like a ruling class. That is not to say, however that the two acts of genocide were completely alike. In reality, the fact that the ideologies and way the acts were committed shed light on the idea that genocide can happen with completely different circumstances.

One major idea to dissect is that all genocides are the same. Actually, most genocidal acts have completely different contexts with relatively similar ends. Rene Lemarchand concluded that “to treat Rwanda as the carbon copy of the Holocaust is likely to obscure its historical specificity and regional context” (Lemarchand p. 499). This idea can also be associated with Native America and the genocide that happened in the nineteenth century. Each act of genocide committed by very different “extremely violent societies”, needs to be viewed by those contexts. What that can do is prove that there are in fact multiple definitions for what happens under the term genocide. While the Holocaust is seen as the definition of the word, it is merely a reference point to show that there are in fact multiple examples. Yehuda Bauer portrays the factors that drove the Holocaust as “Nazi racial anti-Semitic ideology” and Lemarchand views the genocide in Rwanda stemming from “fear and hatred—both contributing” (Lemarchand p. 507). While both examples had ideology, fear and hatred involved, each had a more dominant tone working towards the goal. What these differences can provide are “important clues to an understanding of the element of rationality underlying the motivation to kill” (Lemarchand p. 509). Once an understanding of the specific instance is found, the correlations can be generated and the understanding of the term can be enhanced. When looking at Native America, the specific understanding is needed in order to understand the term genocide as an evolving term. The idea that genocides have explicit differences proves that there cannot be one definition. There must be many.

Hamites and Hebrews: problems in “Judaizing” the Rwandan genocide

This is an article by William Miles that went right over my head the first read. I am fairly well versed in the Christian Bible and know the stories pretty well but the history that Miles brings up and the connections to lineage was so complex that I had to read it a few times to even slightly grasp it. One of the main points he makes is that the Jewish people and the Tutsis were seen as the two races that thought of themselves as the chosen race in their respective cultures and the rest of the region resented them for that. The Jewish side is simply that Jesus was a Jew and therefore they are the chosen race. the Tutsis story goes back to Genesis and the story of Noah. He denounces his son Ham (hint hint to Hamites). There is a ton of more background on this but I wont go into the tedious detail. The point is the two groups that were subjected to genocidal acts thought of themselves and others did the same, as the chosen ones by God. Even though I got through this there were more questions arisen in the article such as “what kind of ‘jews’ are the Tutsis then?”. I do not know how to answer that because I have not looked at the genocide as comparing the religions as much as other factors. I am struggling through this to try and make some more connections but I have not yet. Regardless, the ending of this article is quite correct I think: “it is just as important that theology be harnessed in ways that build, rather than degrade, inter-ethnic confidence.”

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

I recently read an article by Lola Garcia-Alix and Robert Hitchcock about the United Nations adoption of “The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. The article’s focus was on the debate and implications this declaration would have. One of the more intriguing points was the fact that the United States was one of four who refused to sign this recognition of rights. This to me points out once again the denial that America has ever done anything wrong and that the government still refuses to “repay” its debts. One thing that worries me is the fact that the United States is notorious for not living up to ramified resolutions it does not sign. Because of this I wonder if the United States will even consider it because this declaration gives indigenous peoples the right to self-determination, something that could really hurt the US government.

The Next Section of my draft

Now that it can be seen how each of these examples came to be, it is possible to dissect each and show how the Holocaust and Rwanda are examples of fast genocide and Native America is an example of genocide over a period of time. This will show that genocide can have the same core characteristics while looking completely different from each on another at face value. The difficulty with showing examples of genocide in Native America, however, is that there is a lack of information and a great deal of the information is biased. The work that is impartial is very intriguing and will be the basis for most of the information. What will be exposed is not something that many American historians want to admit but will surely show that every nation is capable of genocide.

Throughout the history of the “American West”, there are many examples of American settlers engaging in battle against “hostile peoples” but what is left out is what party started the conflict. What is commonly understood is that the indigenous peoples were combative and hostile but not the other way around. Scholars such as Brenden Rensink, Karl Jacoby, Rob Harper and others contradict the ignorant stereotype that many have come to accept. In an article by Brenden Rensink on the Sand Creek Massacre, he points out that after the massacre was all over one could see the “killing and mutilation of many women, children, and elderly individuals” (Rensink p. 9). This is just one example of the countless killings that happened throughout the Western front. Another example can be seen in the writings of Karl Jacoby. He points out the idea of “extermination”. What was involved with this type genocide was “a policy of killing whatever ‘Apaches’ they encountered on their patrols” (Jacoby p. 253). The mindset was simply the land that the Native Americans had was rightfully the settlers and they took it however they could. Jacoby goes further to show that the brutal killings were “intended to demonstrate the Apache’s subhuman status” and ease the minds of those who committed the atrocities (Jacoby, p. 254). This bestialization troubled the settlers too because it diminished “settlers’ ongoing struggle over the borderlands into…an unequal contest between humans and lesser animals” (Jacoby, p. 256). This was the paradox that was built. Regardless of how the settlers felt, the process of extermination continued. The atrocities committed in the Ohio Valley show the same ideas with a bit of a twist. Rob Harper exposes the notion that when there was little or not government support, there was less violence at the start of the genocides, but later that did not matter because it became an issue of land once again (Harper, p. 235-38). All three of these examples shed a small light on the issue at hand but portray the broader spectrum very well. Another issue is historical denial. Karl Jacoby sheds light on the “extermination” of the Native peoples but also exposes the denial in American histories:

“Indeed, it is revealing to note that as much as the recent flowering of academic histories from Native American scholars foregrounds the brutalities visited upon their communities, this literature seldom employs genocide as a way to describe the violence of the past, favouring instead less charged terms such as colonialism” (Jacoby, p.251)

It is this lack of responsibility for atrocities committed that is disheartening.

Transforming the moral landscape: the diffusion of a genocidal norm in Rwanda

This is a great article by Lee Ann Fujii. She discusses the idea that genocide was taught by the government in Rwanda as well. This trend continues to show up more and more and again makes me question the morality that I discussed in my last post. Rwanda was even worse because for thousands of years these people had gotten along with each other to a certain degree but all of a sudden they were taught to hate each other. The fact that it took such a short period of time to do that is astonishing. Sometimes this project just makes me depressed because I do not know what I would do either in a situation of war or something like that and that thought disgusts me. I say that I would never succumb to the things that some of these groups did but I have never been in the situation either. That is my current struggle and it is still continuing on.