I would like to give you a message. Please do your best to tell the world what is happening to us, the children. So that other children don't have to pass through this violence.A 15-year-old girl who escaped from the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.
That quotation is taken from Amnesty International's page on child soldiers. And on that page is a photograph worth clicking the link to see: guns on the dirt and the backs of former child soldiers walking away from them.
In my ongoing education about blogging, I find myself once again posting a photo without credit. I'm not sure where I found this photo, not even sure where it was taken, and I'm still using it. In the world today there are an estimated 300,000 child soldiers, anonymous as the boy in the photo.
I was reminded of that picture, which I've had saved for a while when I read a post in Black Looks today. She offers a brief review of Uzodinma Iweala's Beast Of No Nation. Bloggers are so smart and she links to her source Moorish Girl:
The preteen protagonist is molded into a fighting man by his demented guerrilla leader and, after witnessing his father's savage slaying, by an inchoate need to belong to some kind of family, no matter how depraved. He becomes a killer, gripped by a muddled sense of revenge as he butchers a mother and daughter when his ragtag unit raids a defenseless village; starved for both food and affection, he is sodomized by his commandant and rewarded with extra food scraps and a dry place to sleep.From the reviews it seems Uzodima Iwela writes wonderfully, but I'm not sure I can face reading his book.
Those of you who know me, know that my grasp of adulthood is tenuous at best. Still, if there is anything core to my being an adult, it is that we should act to protect and nurture children.
How important it is for people to belong, and children sometimes painfully remind us of this. Yesterday in an online forum a poster on the way to making a point about something else, related how his teenaged daughter was living on a half a tuna sandwich a day in an effort to look like the other girls in her cheerleading squad. As parents they told her she had big hips and those other girls when they are in their twenties will wish they had hips like hers. Another friend had recently told me a very similar story and the rather dramatic way her mother had told her essentially the same thing when she was a girl.
Seems like small potatoes compared to child soldiers, or to the children who migrate into Gulu and other towns in northern Uganda to escape abduction at the hands of Kony rebels. But people need to belong. And even the short review of Iwela's book probably would have put me in a funk the whole day long had I not read the post in All Africa (Self-Help) Bazaar today. The ways of providing a reasonable sense of belonging to children, even in the most dire circumstances is easily within our understanding.
Now, doing it is a harder matter. Education for children all over is so clearly needed and in this, people all over can assist. There are many implications to the demographics of rich countries and poor: too many old in rich countries and too many young in poor ones. Surely older people can act on behalf of the young and together all may benefit.
Phil at Blahsploitation alerted me to a post Charitable Computer Nerds Drawn to Africa. Here's the idea in a nutshell:
When an average person is charitably inclined, the objects of that charitable impulse are most likely to be local.I'm not sure I buy the stereotype about computer nerds. But as people have reacted to the idea of Bazungu Bucks the importance of doing things locally has come up over and again.
For American computer nerds, this relationship is reversed.
How to explain this difference? Perhaps the average person has a lot of emotional ties and uses these to guide his or her giving. Whereas the computer nerd has mostly been isolated from other humans in his or her community. When the time to do something charitable, he does a Web search for "unfortunate losers" and finds out that there are lots more in Africa than in Seattle or the Bay Area. If you have no personal connections and the people to be helped are mostly just statistics, it is just as satisfying to help people far away as geographically close. When the people far away are in worse shape than the people nearby, it becomes more satisfying to help them.
Does my work a hospice count? Does my development of diversity traning for school teachers count? I'm trying to keep up on African news to earn Bazungu Bucks. Oh, and lots more. As I've said I'm the Bazungu Buck banker and can pretty much decide when to give them out. And I'm not giving them out nearly fast enough for my liking! The bridge between local and far away Africa isn't so easy to build. Bless you all for asking me these sorts of questions. Go ahead and hit me up for some Bazungu Bucks, at least I can see some utility in having them floating around out there. It does seem true to me that communities of belonging are the what we need to begin to address complex problems.
My friend Peter sent me an email with information about a planned protest in Washington D.C. on Monday:
Join us express our support for Dr. Besigye and demand for his immediate unconditional release. We have secured permission from the US authorities to stage a peaceful protest on Monday November 21, 2005 in Washington DC starting at 9:00am Eastern Standard Time at the locations of State Department corner of 23rd and C Street. This is a peaceful protest and please invite all Ugandans, your friends and supporters of freedom and democracy to join us at this important event.I won't be able to attend, but if you are, please contact me, as I may be able to connect you with others from the area who will be there. The Forum for Democratic Change Web site provides some good coverage about the situation in Uganda.