July 20, 2009 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Forgive and Forget? "Rwanda's warring population has a lot to account for, and a lot to reconcile. Can science point the way to understanding?"
posted by homunculus (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

The Rwandan people seem to be on a journey from the absolute worst that humans are capable of -- genocide so savage as to be likely inconceivable even to the Nazis -- to the absolute pinnacle of human achievement: forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity in the face of it all. And in just fifteen years. I don't feel like I can forgive the Hutu, and I spent those months living comfortably in suburban USA.

When [my kids] ask me how they can recognize a Hutu, I change the subject.

Is there is a comparable journey in any of recorded human history?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:21 AM on July 21, 2009

Very impressive. It is encouraging when people can adjust their personal sense of justice and the official system to better serve the overall situation. Forgiveness = I am not a slave to my sense of injustice.
posted by Free word order! at 1:21 AM on July 21, 2009

...genocide so savage as to be likely inconceivable even to the Nazis
Careful, now, genocide in all forms is a despicable, unfathomable thing; something that most rational minds simply choose not to process, because it violates all logic. And unfathomable as the Hutu were, I'm reluctant to "rank" horrificness, especially when all genocides have so very many hideous, horrible players.
posted by disillusioned at 4:02 AM on July 21, 2009

"I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying I cannot forgive. Forgiveness should be like a cancelled note - torn in two, burned up, so that it can never be shown against one." - Henry Ward Beecher

The articles - particularly the latter one - touch on the issue of trust, and that's a huge iceberg of an issue in a place like Rwanda. I've been there this year for work and return in a couple months for more.

You simply don't talk about ethnicity in Rwanda - 15 years later its a taboo subject. Sure it happens, with a reporter or maybe even between a few people as part of a reconciliation ministry, but for the most part - in every day life, in work and play and politics and commerce and everything else - its better to keep your mouth shut. Its safe, or whatever approximation of safe can be found in a place like Rwanda. Its a very strange place in that way.

There will never be enough trust to fully move on until there's real forgiveness, and that means actively working to "forget" what has happened. Not in a collective, denial-of-history type way - humans must always remember their slips into genocide be they in Germany, Sudan, Rwanda, or wherever else they may occur. But it does have to happen in a real, human, one-on-one setting, hundreds of thousands if not millions of times over. Which is what these 2 people are doing, which is something to marvel at.

Something to marvel at in the same way we marvel at the genocide itself: look at what we as humans are capable of. It boggles the mind. In the same way that the atrocities are horribly, horribly possible, so is the true forgiveness of them. Its a choice, however, I don't think is so easily made for your average Rwandan genocide victim.

Anyway, all that considered, "science" is a bit late to the game on this one. Humans have been hating and forgiving and loving and killing and sad and angry and so on and so forth for pretty much our entire history. I don't need some lab rat to tell me which ones are better for us.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:11 AM on July 21, 2009

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