“In the year 6681 of the World and in that of 1482 since the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most serene, the most excellent and potent prince, King Joao II of Portugal did order this land to be discovered and this pillar of stone be erected by Diogo Cao, an esquire in his household.” Those words were inscribed on a limestone pillar near the mouth and estuary of the Congo River. The introduction of Europeans into the area vastly increased the demand for slaves. African chiefs looking towards the westerners’ ships and wealth were all too willing to sell. A century later– 15,000 slaves a year were exported from Congo alone. In the 1600s, one of every four slaves imported to work the cotton and tobacco plantation of the American South would find their origin in this area. This is all described in Adam Hochschild’s book King Leopold’s Ghost. However, the most distributing aspect of this area’s slave trade was the European priests. The lust for slave profits engulfed the priests to abandon their preaching, took black women as concubines, and sold their students and converts into slavery. Hockschild gave me chills. I never heard this history during grade school. I was totally unaware of King Leopold’s actions within the area of Congo during the 1880s either. King Leopold II of Belgium, effectively massacred 10 million people in Congo, 4 million more than Adolf Hitler’s culling. Most historical descriptions label this event as ‘the colonization of Congo by Belgium.’ How does evil like this escape me and escape us?
Yet it goes on…
In 1994, the U.S. and Rwanda’s Western allies did not intervene in its genocide that engulfed nearly a million people when the Hutus massacred the Tutsis. One of the most disturbing instances was the Gikondo massacre. In hopes of refuge families harbored themselves at their local church to find shelter and wait out the Interhamwe militant intrusion. Yet the Interahamwe militants entered the church any way to check ID cards. Those who were ID as Hutu were ordered to leave. Despite the priest protest, the Interahamwe began to kill people with Tutsi identification with clubs and machetes.
I try to picture myself there in God’s house along with my family in midst of the evil. As the Interahamwe enter that sanctuary– that holy place– I might recite, repeatedly, “the Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. The Lord is my strength and my defense, he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
My faith would have been broken the moment the first Interahamwe meet his machete with human flesh. Despite my cry, despite my plea, the Interhamwe would hack my brother’s arms, genitals, and face. As my wife tried to protect my child, the machete would pass through her arms, like butter, into the skull of my child. The air would be thick with iron and the floor, a chunky red.
I can imagine it.
Evil is a word I would use. However, I feel we all tend to use the term evil without really defining it or use it far too lightly. Example: Sarah Palin: “Obamacare an atrocious, evil policy.” Right and wrong are variable referents. Evil should not be. All too often it is. We may forget the truth of what evil is if we use it so causally. This may be a joke for some people. I’m aware that a lot of eyes may roll at what I just said. Yet I can’t help speculate that this causal play of words or swearing the meaning of evil is no good. Let me give an example of literally. Oxford has given a new meaning to literally and it is in the process of losing its truth. Literally– literally– does not mean just “literally” anymore. It is now and most commonly used as emphasis, a hyperbole, and not literally. Will there be a point when literally loses its true meaning completely? When we use evil in variable referents, could it be possible that it might have the same effect? Perhaps not. Evil may not lose its truth, but refusing to deploy it appropriately– we may never truly define it either.
Derrick and I went over the use of language such as cursing and swearing. Curse words, as Derrick believes and as I do, are morally neutral terms. Derrick illustrated that Christ instructed his followers to rely on their words and never to use unnecessary emphasis. Reason being, I believe, it may take away a word’s truth, or at least a small part.
The Obama administration refuses to label Egypt’s coup– a coup. The Bush administration refused to label the Armenian genocide as genocide. The Clinton administration, at the time of the event, did not acknowledge Rwanda’s genocide either. Ethnic uprising, disproportionate causalities, and whatever Orwellian term you like has been used. I understand most of these Orwellian deploys are politically strategic. Egypt will not get her aid from the U.S. if we use the killer term, coup. But why can’t we say, ‘it is coup and we don’t care. We will continue to supply aid to Egypt, despite what our laws say? Or say, yes there is a genocide in Rwanda today and it is not in our interest to intervene, despite international law.’ Life goes on.
Our nation doesn’t violate treaties, at least in plain and pure language, because it would endanger the leverage we may have later. To use Orwellian legal and political dexterity to wiggle out of a tight place seems like it would have the same effect– but it doesn’t.
I don’t believe politicians or verbal manipulators are that smart. The twist of terms are too simplistic.
But, I do not think people are THAT dumb.