SaveDarfur.org: what we can do as Americans to help

Usually, I refrain from stating my political or social viewpoints and try not to write anything controversial on this blog, which is mainly about selfishly important DJ culture stuff. But, seeing as I have a voice, and with that a certain social responsibility, I thought it was important to expound on the topic of Darfur.

[If you feel like the whole country is talking about Darfur and you could care less, stop reading now.]

Tonight, my girlfriend, Missy, and I watched a 60 Minutes piece, Searching For Jacob, on the genocide taking place in Darfur, Sudan. Although we’ve seen it mentioned in the news media, I can’t recall a news piece on the subject that had a greater impact on us than this one.

60 Minutes sent a camera crew to Darfur to find a young man, Jacob, who’s family had been murdered in a settlement in Darfur, by the dictatorship backed Janjaweed militia, who are trying to cleanse the country of non-Arab Sudanese. The young man, now 19, was found in a refugee camp and shown notebooks and school books he’d left behind at the schoolhouse burned by the militia a few years earlier. Having escaped the horror, he now lives in the refugee camp living with thousands of others with similiar stories. The death and destruction of their families and homes has taken a tremendous psychological and physical toll on these people. It’s mass murder on an incredible scale. Many are now comparing it to the Holocaust, which we’ve really only heard about through the stories of our great-grandfathers, grand-mothers, history books, and tv shows.

Many of us in our 20’s onward were around for both the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda. The first we got involved in too late and the second we did nothing about. Now genocide is taking place in Darfur, and we can either sit around and spend all of our money on clothes, mortgages and nice restaurants, or we can take a little out of our wallets and give back.

According to 60 Minutes, over 300,000 have since died, with 2.5 million now homeless and living in desert refugee camps supported by aid from various agencies worldwide. As an American living here, there’s little I can physically do to help support the effort to save the people of Darfur from ethnic cleansing. I’m not trained in human relief and I have responsibilities here to myself, my girlfriend and the employees at EMW, who depend on me for my expertise, guidance and support. So, what does one do? Visit SaveDarfur.org, a web site set up for help people understand how to support the people of Darfur who are homeless, hungry and without their loved ones. As we watch over the civil war in Iraq, which has taken our world stature down a few notches on the compassion and civility scale while spreading our commitments too thin, the people in Darfur still need our help.

Sudan’s dictator, Omar AlBashir, came to the U.N. just a few weeks ago. He listened to Bush criticize him and his government from the lecturn, while one of his representative’s openly smirked. Bush’s direct confrontation to AlBashir on that day holds little weight, because now we know behind the scenes, the Sudanese government is getting a pass for the intelligence it possesses on Al Quaeda. I understand the underlying role of Sudan in the fight against terror, but at what cost?

Can we not get that information elsewhere? Can we not defend the people of Darfur somehow, someway, without being complicit in the knowledge that we got a few morsels of information while we lightly slap the hand of AlBashir, who is overseeing the slaughtering of hundred’s of thousand’s of innocent, defenseless people? Of course it’s a difficult, complex situation, one that most of us hardly understand the implications of. Maybe we don’t know the answer? And, we won’t , unless we do something about it.

As we’ve seen since the Bush-led White House came into power, our leaders continue to make the wrong choices. On Nov. 7, one way to change the status quo is to vote complicit Republicans out of the House and Senate. Those who have done nothing to support the relief effort, pressuring Sudan and calling for international peacekeepers along with more support for the Darfur region should be removed from power. That is one way to change the status quo.

Second, I gave a small donation to SaveDarfur.org, which will go to the relief efforts. By doing so, maybe we can make a difference in the lives of the weak and starving.

Third, you should call and write your congressman or senator and make this a political issue. At SaveDarfur.org, you will find many actionable instructions you can follow to make your voice heard.

Yes, none of us want to leave the comfy confines of America to stick our heads in the middle of the desert and save thousands of people. It’s just not realistic. Time, money, transportation, distance to the problem, and a true understanding of the conflict are all barriers to offer a compassionate hand to a desperate people. Donating money and writing letters to pressure your representative and let them know that you won’t vote for them unless they stand for a people who need our help is.

We’ve given for 9/11, given for Hurricane Katrina, and now we must give to the people of Darfur our support, because they are experiencing a disaster that none of us can ever imagine.

I remember that day, on 9/11, when the city shook under massive explosions from the terror attacks. The smoke, sirens, and chaos that ensued was unimaginable only the day before. We live in the the wealthiest country in the world, driving billions of dollars in transactions everyday. There is a middle class and upper class here, who don’t live in squalor and can afford to give something. To live in the conditions the people of Darfur live under today, knowing that hundred’s of thousand’s of their people were killed for nothing but sheer and disgusting racism and genocide is unconscionable.

Finally, another action you can take is to read blogs and comment on them, whether on newspaper web sites or independent blog sites. You can also call in to your local radio talk shows and make the issue heard there. At least it will show that the people of America care about other people’s problems, and not just our own.

It will go a long way to showing the world that unlike George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, we care what the world thinks about us, and we want the world to know that we will support them just as we were supported after 9/11. If another 9/11 happened today, would the world have an outpouring of support for our people as they did on that fateful September day? I’m hestitant to think so. But, if we show the world our compassion for the people of Darfur, that may help to change some perceptions about America in the world view.

That being said, think of Darfur as your world too. A dollar here is nothing, but a dollar there goes a long way.

Tony Z.

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