We keep watching.
Humanity looks at war from afar, as an image, rather than a real experience lived out by people who constantly suffer to find peace or seek to create chaos. Not only does this image destroy each person’s individuality but also strips away their dignity as human beings. We see a shell instead of a person holding a past, present, and future. Gourevitch asks, “Who is grieving for Rwanda and really living it and living with the consequences? Who comprehends the massive amount of people who were killed, injured, and displaced in three and a half months in Rwanda?” Personal testimonies, gruesome photographs, informative news, and daily articles were consistently made available, yet the “international community kept watching” (169). In addition, Sontag states the “ubiquity of [these] photographs, and horrors, cannot help but nourish belief in the inevitability of tragedy in the benighted parts of the world” (71). She also shows how the dead cannot communicate to us their disappointment in our inaction. In reality, these images only implant “beliefs” that we have no ability to actually help because we don’t associate with “them” (poor countries, people who are different, etc.) or we say it will pass in time. However, the wait is over, and both these works of nonfiction point to our flaws as citizens of nation states, our twisted innate desires to look, and our lack of recognition towards our shared humanity. These violent histories and experiences are not exhibits for our entertainment or a simple memory but a reality that haunts humanity for the rest of time. Until we invest in everyone on Earth, war will not end. People can no longer “hope” everybody will behave nicely in the future while continuing providing humanitarian efforts (170). In order to distinguish the difference between genocide and a “cheese sandwich,” one must dig deeper inside themselves and break the picture frame encapsulating inaction. The lenses of others helped us view problems from the outside, but as Sontag and Gourevitch would agree, it is time to shatter our expectations and reach into something new that we cannot keep our eyes off of.
Let us use our hands.
“Denouncing evil is a far cry from doing good.”~ Philip Gourevitch