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Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Friday, January 28, 2005
 
Last night, I watched Terry George's film "Hotel Rwanda". It's a remarkable film of great power and emotion. It centers around the genocide that took place in Kigali in 1994, when the Hutu people, angered at the killing of their president by Tutsi rebels, proceeded to slaughter every Tutsi person they could find, rebel or not.

One Hutu man, who was left in charge of a four-star hotel, used it as a makeshift refugee camp. He used every tactic he could think of to keep the people inside his hotel safe from harm, often putting his own life on the line.

A particularly insightful moment in the film comes when Don Cheadle (who in a long line of great performances, gives his best here) who plays the hotel manager, thanks an American news cameraman (played by Joaquin Phoenix) for the footage that he shot, saying that people will see it around the world and help stop the slaughter. And Phoenix says sadly, "People will see that, and they'll say 'That's horrible', and then go back to eating their breakfast."

I found myself to be a victim of that sentiment as Brey and I left the theater. We had both been rather affected by the film, and looking for something to bring us out of our sadness. It ended up being ice cream that was decided upon.

And as I was sitting there, eating my mint chip gelato, I was embodying the sentiment of that film. The American, seeing these tragic events, saying "That's horrible" and returning to his ice cream. Granted, I had just seen a movie with actors, based on events that happened when I was twelve years old, but I felt that, having been alive during that time, I hadn't done enough to stop the Tutsi massacre.

I started thinking about the tsunami victims and how I didn't offer any help at all. Nor did I give money to 9/11 families. Nor have I helped out the poverty problem in my own country, apart from giving change to those who ask it. I can't give blood because of my time spent in England. I have no charities attached to my name, and the only organization I donate money to are the two theatre companies that I work with the most.

I felt like a horrible. inhumane person. But then again, I'm only a lower-middle class guy, doing theatre for free and trying to manage his wages like any other working man. How could I only give to one charity and deny the others? How could I give to them all without going into poverty myself? There are so many causes to be fighting for in the world, how can I decide which issues get my attention?

And as I later walked through a Borders, listening to the Modest Mouse CD and musing about the store's placing of the Oskar Schindler and Clay Aiken autobiographies next to each other (it amazes me that some people don't see the obvious comic situation in front of them), I wished that I had more influence in the world. If I controlled armies, had immense riches and/or extreme power...well, who knows, I'd probably abuse it like everyone else who has these things does. But I would like to think that I would be the good guy. The calvary that comes in at the end of the film. The guy who gets the Oscar nominated film based on his life.

Until that day comes, if it ever does, I guess I'll just have to keep giving change.

Comments:
The big picture, yes, looks horrible. There are so many problems, where do we begin? The thing is, the real difference-makers in this world aren't heads of state. They're not tackling ALL the world's problems. The people that make the difference are those who make the small, "unnoticed" changes ... tackling one, tiny problem at a time ...

The guy who sends off a dozen pencils so kids in Africa can write in school, the woman who gives blood once a year, the kid who shoves his old clothes into a bag so his mother can take them to the homeless shelter. Every one of those acts should be praised, because those are the acts and the people making a difference.

Sure, a dozen pencils don't sound like much ... but it's a team effort. Those pencils, combined with the efforts of the teacher, combined with the Sally Struthers-followers who gave .65 cents a day so that children could eat ...

Combine those efforts with those of the lady at the checkout counter who gave boxtops, that turned into dollars, that turned into a scholarship, that turned a disadvantaged student into a doctor ... a doctor who travels to Africa to help children live to see double-digits ...

Suddenly we have a more educated population, who can grow up to produce even more change - large or small. No one person can do that, we have to be a team.

So I thank you, Jeremy, for giving your nickels and pennies. You ARE making a difference. That is a world-changing gesture. Do what you can, when you can. Don't beat yourself up because you can't disarm the nukes and feed every hungry child before breakfast ... pat yourself on the back for caring enough to do SOMETHING.

And think of that team you're on. I'm sure, when you look at the big picture, our team is winning. :)
 
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