The South Sudan–Imagine If This Was Your Family?

Posted on January 16, 2012 by



Friday, online at Panera waiting for my Greek salad, I saw the headline of the New York TimesBorn In Unity, South Sudan Is Torn Again,” and I became suffocated by the photo of a father waiting at a clinic with his injured child who was covered with bandages on his head.

I want to get past the how did I get so lucky with my life in America conversation. My biggest worry is not about my children’s minute-to-minute safety. My biggest nightly worry is my insomnia. My son’s biggest worry is if he can get past Harry Potter 5-7 level 6. Miri’s teenager’s biggest worry is if she can or cannot access her cell phone at night. We’re swimmingly lucky. Our lives are vastly different.

With this said, it would be elitist to me to suggest that life in the Sudan is all tragic. With all of the chaos, love, family, worship, home and survival must exist and survive. The human spirit doesn’t dissipate overnight. It takes years and months–even then it grows and winds through even through the driest and war torn of climates. And even then, the human spirit has brought us through hundreds of thousands of years of struggles.

I would like to discuss what exactly is happening in the South Sudan because outside of say, Mia Farrow and Angelina Jolie–who can we all agree that yes, maybe she is the bitch that stole Brad from Jen, but she has brought incredible awareness to that part of the world–there are many of us (including me) who don’t understand why children are being mutilated like that boy in the photo above.

I know it’s a hard photo to look at. I know. I was barely able to add it myself. But I need to know why.

According to the Times, the US and other Western countries have had better hopes for the South Sudan–billions of dollars have been invested to turn around the violence in that area to a more “Western-friendly nation.” Here’s what’s happening instead. Writes Jeffrey Gettleman in the New York Times:

Eight thousand fighters just besieged this small town in the middle of a vast expanse, razing huts, burning granaries, stealing tens of thousands of cows and methodically killing hundreds, possibly thousands, of men, women and children hiding in the bush.

The raiders had even broadcast their massacre plans.

“We have decided to invade Murleland and wipe out the entire Murle tribe on the face of the earth,” the attackers, from a rival ethnic group, the Nuer, warned in a public statement.

As a commenter in the New York Times website wrote: “This is genocide.”

So what is the UN doing? 400 peacekeepers were rushed in to try to stop the massacre, but we all know how these things end. The UN isn’t strong enough. They claimed to have been outnumbered. There’s not enough military capacity for tribes to protect themselves. Children are being abducted, slaughtered. Villages are being destroyed.

I’m sorry that I can’t give you a better story today. I’m sorry that I can’t find a silver lining in this. As a writer, I want to bookend this blog entry as a way to wrap this up, but there is no wrapping. Only distraught. If nothing else, writing about it and discussing it allows a voice for the South Sudanese so that their story isn’t ignored. So that if the Nuer militia decides to attempt to “wipe out the entire tribe” as they threaten, then at least I will have written something.

I signed this Humanitarian Aid in Sudan petition. If you’re affected by this photo and what I wrote, I hope you’ll do the same.

(Image: Sven Torfinn)