New Lessons from 'Hotel Rwanda'
A blog post by Clint Rogers [alumni of the BYU IP&T program determined to change the world] reminded me of an insight--question really--that I hadn't recorded. It ended up too long to be a reasonable comment to his post...so I'm just posting it here. I, too, enjoyed Mr. Rusesabagina's address at the BYU forum. Perhaps the most interesting part of the experience for me, however, occurred on the walk back to class afterward: Engulfed in a crowd of milling students crossing the street, I found myself puzzling over half a dozen remarkably similar conversations hanging in the frigid air. They all went something like this:
Did [some horrific event in Africa] really happen? Yeah, it's still happening in [some sub-Saharan African nation]. Wow. That's amazing. That's terrible. Yeah, I know. [...long pause...] So, what do we do? [...long pause...] I don't know.
It made me want to promise all the charitable, capable, well-intentioned but un-obsessed people of the world that I will never prick at their sleeping social consciences, never pay stirring tribute to their power and influence, never paint mental murals of the world as it could be with them on their metaphorical feet without actually giving them something to DO.
It made me worry that some of our most valiant and passionate efforts to bring the crises of the world into the heart and mind of the average American may inadvertently perpetuate the "they'll say, 'oh, that's awful'--and go back to eating their dinner" response that was one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in "Hotel Rwanda." Truthfully, what other option do they have? It seems unreasonable to me to leave an audience cheering, and crying, on its feet and then expect them to somehow dig up, search out, or invent the means to make a difference. It seems unfair to generate that kind of energy without providing an actionable channel for it.
Until we have in place mechanisms for action and support accessible to the public we are trying to mobilize, passing notice [perhaps intense, but seldom lasting] is all we can reasonably expect. And I suppose that's fine if all we're going for is awareness, but I--for one--want change.