This was originally posted at Thirty Voices in response to the “Posting Challenge” – What would you banish to Room 101?
A while ago, I wrote an incredibly angry essay about the janjaweed and the U.S. government’s failure to vote that Sudan be brought before the International Criminal Court. The piece came from a moment of palpable rage.
I don’t think I can reprint it here because it displays an indulgence in what my mother calls “lazy language.” Neither of my parents ever utter more than, “Damn” or “Hells Bells,” and those expletives are deployed rarely –in times of sudden irritation– like in 1976 when Mom discovered that the “Putt-putt-Pinto” wouldn’t start and she may be late for work, or in 1981 when Dad burned his arm on the pancake griddle. See, when I said “rarely,” I meant just that. Years pass between my parents’ use of even the most mild cuss words. Their example taught me that speech matters.
Even if the readers and women of 30 Voices don’t mind some occasional profanity, it just so happens that the only two women I’ve linked to this site are my mother and my boyfriend’s mother. Andy’s parents’ sensibilities regarding language are very much in sync with those of my parents. I take a certain pride in knowing that my partner and I both come from people who—however subconsciously—hold language choice as a matter of dignity. If only our Vice President, Dick “Go Fuck Yourself” Cheney had similar values. Which brings me back to the topic. Room 101: What/who would I banish?
The thing about banishing something is that it actually goes away. It doesn’t persist for years on end like the on-going genocide in Darfur or the illegal war in Iraq. Thousands of us have written in an effort to banish these crimes. We’ve written to Kofi Annan, and later to his successor, and to Colin Powell, and later to his successor, and to George Bush, and have prayed for his successor. But some things, no matter how urgent, have not changed. And years pass, and death tolls—while argued over, by all reports—continue to rise.
Watching it all from my place of comfort—where sometimes we get small burns while cooking big meals, where, once every few years, the car doesn’t start—watching it all from this ever so blessed vantage point, I feel backed into a helpless corner and the only words that seem appropriate are curses: deep, dark, guttural curses.
So it’s with bitter disillusionment that I revisit my March 2005 banishment essay. And out of respect to the matriarchs in my life, I’ll throw in a few keyboard strokes to mask the “unladylike words”.
I need a new exclamation. ####–$$$$ing—Mother–@@@@ers doesn’t work any more. I used to love it–the way that #### just punches and the “keh” in $$$$ing bounces off of that. Finished off with Mother @@@@ers, and you get the perfect under-the-breath-teeth-gnashing ending. It’s possible to say Mother–@@@@ers with your jaws completely locked. Ever notice that?
But I’m giving it up today in search of more powerful, more satisfying words. I’m giving it up today because I just read the March 7th Reuters report that the United States is one of three countries not in favor of referring Sudan to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even as the raping and killing continues in Darfur, our government refuses to take the fastest steps possible to help. Why? Without further investigation, I venture to guess the Whitehouse’s beef with the ICC has something to do with places like Abu Ghraib. And say, Guantanamo.
You know who the other two countries are that stand with us in the Sudan ICC vote? Russia and China. In case anyone has any doubts—let me spell it out: we’re with the bad guys on this one. It’s Russia, China, the Sudanese government and us. Essentially, our country is protecting the janjaweed. No one would ever admit to that, but that’s what refusing to refer Sudan to the ICC amounts to. We may not actually be raping starving Sudanese girls while the men who try to protect them are beaten, stripped, tied to trees and forced to watch. We may not be the ones imprisoning the girls who are judged guilty because they “allowed themselves” to get pregnant during repeated gang bangs. No, we’re not that messy–we commit our state sanctioned raping behind closed doors. And the people who photograph such events are punished accordingly. So, what would we need with the ICC?
GRRRRAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH. I need some new words. Real words, more than just sounds. Words that take a club and swing harder than my arms. Bad words that express the true foulness of the situation. I could start with “foul” itself, but foul has soft sounds. Not strong sounds like ####. #### has a built in exclamation point . . .
I’ll spare you the rest. Since I first typed that rant, people like Don Cheadle and George Clooney have brought Dafur to the “Entertainment Tonight” watching masses. My friends and family no longer offer blank stares when I finagle a conversation toward the topic of genocide. I’ve given away a dozen green rubber “Not on My Watch” bracelets and have lost the one I kept for myself. Blogs have been started and already fizzled on the subject. Yet there are still hundreds of thousands of Darfuri civilians who are displaced and in danger.
It’s probably typical that during childhood, my innocence first eroded when I started to learn about slavery in America and World War II – The Holocaust, the Atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I heard about those events long after they occurred from caring adults who had the perspective of history and used as many euphemisms as they could muster. Although the topic was, “This is how evil human beings are to each other,” the lesson was always, “People heal . . . Good prevails.”
It didn’t occur to me that there are months and years and sometimes decades to get to the part when justice wins. The happy ending often times seems to recede instead of getting closer. No one prepared me for the long days when all words fail.