Fourteen Plus 2.5 Million

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This week I committed (Thanks to Notgoth) to do a little bit of letter writing for Amnesty. After all, December 7-10 is their “Global Write-A-Thon”. I figured, I’m blogging every damned day of the month, I can do a few extra finger dances over the keyboard, especially if it means it may help someone.

If you’ve been reading this journal, you know how overwhelmed I’ve been feeling lately, so I vowed to write only four letters. It’s not a lot, and maybe I’ll end up doing more, but I wanted to make a committment that felt doable.

On the way to work the other day, I was thinking about what I’d read at the Amnesty site. I imagined being imprisoned day after day not knowing if anyone, anywhere was doing anything on my behalf. I thought about the people in Guantanamo. I knew then that making time to write the letters would be an important part of my week.

So today, I went to the website, specifically to this page to start prepping for the task.

What I found there (go, you’ll see), was pictures of (or representing) 14 individuals plus all of the 2.5 million displaced people of Darfur. And I looked at the photos one at a time, at each face. I scrolled my cursor over their noses (some that have since been broken), and eyes (what have those eyes seen?) And I skimmed the descriptions of their crimes: flying an outlawed flag, planning a peaceful demonstration, sending an e-mail to a pro-democracy website, displaying spiritual beliefs, investigating labor rights violations, peacefully seeking political reforms, defending human rights, and in Darfur, just plain existing.

I looked at the faces trying to choose just one picture to pull on to my desktop to post at this blog. I thought about choosing Ma Khin Khin Leh of Myanmar, but then thought, she’s so pretty, I bet thousands are already writing letters on her behalf.

I thought about choosing Francois-Xavier Byuma of Rwanda, but then wondered if I’d be contributing towards sensationalizing the “powerlessness” of a black man. Would it be racist of me?

I thought about choosing Artur Akhmatkhanov of Russia, but then doubted whether or not anyone would actually be moved to action upon seeing a white man’s face. Definitely racist of me.

I thought about choosing Shi Tao of China, who looks just like the man next door.

And then I realized that these are my four. Four people. Writing letters on their behalf is not a chore, not an extra committment (I really can say “No” when I need to). Writing letters on behalf of Ma Khin Khin Leh, Francois-Xavier Byuma, Artur Akhmatkhanov and Shi Tao is my privilege.

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