Monday, February 22, 2016

Response to a Book: Machete Season (2003)

To Joseph, Leopord, Elie, Fulgence, Pio, Alphonse, Jean-Baptiste, Ignace and Pancrace,
           First and foremost, I write to you after deliberating over your accounts of killing in Machete Season.  I must clarify, the reason I write to all of you, is because I wish to point out I have no particular preference for either one of you, I struggle to think of you as individuals, when really, you are all a representation of people who failed many innocent victims with every blow of your machete, every time you scoffed at a feeble cry of an innocent victim as they were hacked to death. Thank you for participating in Jean Hatzfeld’s interviews. I imagine this was not an easy task for you, openly discussing your participation in the deaths of innocent people you had lived side by side with. I wish you had pointed out moderate Hutus were killed by Hutus too. I think this is an important point in the horror that happened in Rwanda.

 I had to reflect on forgiveness from the perspectives of those who seek it and those who have suffered so much. I am not entirely sure how the role of forgiveness can ever make what you have done any less horrific.  Yet, I remind myself you yourselves are victims of a larger crime, a larger conspiracy by military officials who did not want a ceasefire. I wonder if even now, years later, you can realize you were simply pawns in a much more complicated political game. Did you ever consider that the president's death was carefully orchestrated, not by racist, ignorant civilians, but military leaders who used civilians for their own benefit? It makes me sad, to realize each of you had the opportunity to resist even for a moment, the thought to kill your neighbors, people you lived with side by side, collectively. You all had the chance to change history. Instead, you made history in a way that has only hurt Rwanda and the futures of many generations to come.
              Thus, forgiveness is not for the sake of belittling your culpability that is both moral and legal, but for the sake of the future of Rwanda. You have been punished, and yet, I wonder if there is justice for what you have done. I reflect on how punishments are relative to others. It seems to me, you hid behind the veil of ignorance and racist propaganda, when there were economical gains for you in the downfall of the innocent neighbors around you. Your chilling accounts share how seemingly "normal" people become complicit in "work" related to the "business of the killings and compensation" (page 14) because it was simply more lucrative than farming. While I appreciate your honesty, I suspect there is a lot more you did not share. It is fascinating to note how even your regret harbors on your personal inconvenience and unfortunate circumstances. It would seem you are more dismayed by losing the ‘war’ and not being able to complete what you began; that of killing all the Tutsis and moderate Hutus, than the actual crimes you committed.

               There is no point in dwelling on what cannot be changed, now. You are a stark reminder of how vulnerable humanity is to manipulation by those in power. I conclude by wondering if your stories mean what happened in Rwanda is merely human nature? Hannah Arendt might argue this is entirely possible and you are a classic case of the ‘banality of evil.’ I remind myself there were numerous cases of people who helped other people, even when society disintegrated in to total chaos and disorder. So, ultimately you are responsible for you own actions, and entirely deserving of the consequences of those actions. No matter what, you have to live with the reality of your past, and blood will always be on your hands. No amount of forgiveness can take that away from you, and that, is your cross to bear.  Thank you.

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