Monday, December 31, 2007

Year-end 2007: Not all about us

Yesterday I spent the day in Washington, DC with a friend who I’d last seen when I stayed with her in Kinshasa in 2006. When I asked her what had been striking to her about coming back to the US after two years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she cited a few of the things that always stand out to me as well when I come home, like the national obsession with personal safety, a tendency to overreact to minor inconveniences as if they were breaches of fundamental rights, and – notably for this blog – an at times maudlin fixation on individual American deaths as tragedies while millions suffer and die elsewhere unnoted. In 2007, many of the entries in this blog have been devoted to taking note of the fact that it’s not all about us, including as just one example, Diane Amann’s periodic “…and counting…” post on all the deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts (not just the American deaths reported by the Department of Defense).
The Democratic Republic of Congo gets my vote as the most under-recognized “it’s not all about us” international crisis point (notwithstanding a much-appreciated series of New York Times articles in recent months). At least 3.8 million people have died since “Africa’s World War” began, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. In spite of a formal peace agreement, resurgent fighting in eastern Congo continues to cost tens of thousands of lives each month, not to mention the many more refugees, internally displaced people, and women and girls suffering from crippling sexual assaults.
As 2007 comes to a close, who else has been forgotten on the world stage? Feel free to add your comments below…

1 comment:

Diane Marie Amann said...

There are too many potential nominees... Perhaps a living thing, named "Flora"? Many plants face extinction, part of overall environmental/habitat degradation, but their plight gets far less attention than other species -- Abies fanjingshanensis just isn't as charismatic as the great panda. See stories at http://www.well.com/~davidu/plantextinction.html and http://home.frognet.net/~rural8/study.html