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Genocide Made “Cool”

April 17, 2009

Recently, I came across a blog post entitled “Cool things to do for human rights in DC this weekend” on Martha Heineman Bixby’s INSIDE THE BELTWAY & OUTSIDE THE ORDINARY. Cool things to do for human rights in DC this weekend?!

I like cool things.

I like to do things for human rights.

I like Washington, DC.

I like weekends (especially long ones).

Things were looking up. I thought maybe Los Lobos (which is way cool) was working overtime on Sunday, and rockin’ a human rights benefit concert in addition to their earth day fun. To quench my curiosity, I read on…

…and what did I find? The first “cool thing to do for human rights in DC this weekend” was an event that “will begin with a memorial ceremony by survivors [to past and current genocides] to honor the lives that have been lost” and will be followed by “a speaking program featuring individuals who have been “upstanders” in the face of genocide.” Memorials to genocide can be many things.

Humbling? Yes.

Somber? Yes.

Solemn? Yes.

Emotional? Yes.

Inspirational? Yes.

Life-changing? Yes.

Life-saving? Yes.

And individuals that stand against the perpetrators of genocide (forgive me if I don’t use the sophomoric “upstander” tag) and the stories they tell can be described in much the same terms. But “cool”?! I don’t think so. These are not cool in the same way that peacekeepers, aid workers, and diplomats are not cool. They are often selfless heroes risking their own lives on behalf of the less fortunate. “Cool” just doesn’t feed the bulldog. “Cool” is reserved for Steve McQueen, worn Levis blue jeans, and David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen.

From misplaced/misattributed/misquoted Michael Jackson references on Facebook to classifying genocide memorials as “cool”, why do those closely associated with Save Darfur insist upon making Darfur and anti-genocide advocacy more “hip”…or…”cool”? Is it a lack of seriousness or serious marketing?

Now and in the future, the good folks at SDC would do well to heed the words of Mark Twain:

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

Words matter. Responsible advocates choose them carefully. Less responsible advocates take liberties with them.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Gwendolyn permalink
    April 25, 2009 12:13 am

    Couldn’t agree more. Words do matter . . .

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