I like being funny when I blog. Making people laugh, or at least smile, is a great feeling. And I like using humor when faced with something heavy emotion-wise. Jokes and sarcasm make for great defense mechanisms.
At least, until you go to a Rwandan genocide memorial. Especially Murambi. Yeesh.
Suffice to say, it was bad. We're talking about mummified bodies frozen in their last moments of agony; that's not exactly a third grade field trip. A few students from a local college came with us and two of them collapsed sobbing at the first room.
Some people might use the word morbid to describe the display, and that might not be a bad term. Normally memorials are...well, clean, for lack of a better term. You'll read about what happened and maybe see the names and some photographs, but you don't actually see the bodies. Definitely not exactly as they died, where you can see for yourself how they died, whether they were begging or trying shield themselves or if it was too quick for them to try to defend themselves. Rwanda certainly knows how to leave an impression.
Everyone likes to compare the Rwandan genocide to the Holocaust, and I'm no exception. As I was thinking about this blog post (more like panicking, because seriously, how the hell am I supposed to write about this s***?) I started thinking about how people react to tragedies like this. Humor is my shield of choice. But at what point does that start to do more harm than good?
We've all heard a Holocaust joke or two, maybe more if you have the weird uncle who drinks too much and says things he really shouldn't. Very few people actually enjoy them, but for most of us we kind of shrug it off as just having bad taste. It happened ages ago, and it's not like it'll ever happen again.
Except...it did. Not against Jews, but against Tutsis. That underlying hatred is still there. It's on every inhabited continent and every country. Not even the US is exempt (*cough cough* Native Americans *cough*).
It's the distance that does it. After a tragedy, we shed our tears, put up a memorial or two, say our prayers, and promise never again. But then we forget about it. We make light of it. We make really bad jokes that dismiss the suffering of millions of people. We let hatred seep back into our respective societies and fester until it explodes in another horrendous tragedy, and the cycle starts anew.
Rwandan memorials don't do that, especially not Murambi. They don't just show you pictures that you can distance yourself from. They show you the bodies, the caved-in skulls and shattered ribs of innocent people, and they dare you to make light of it.
Humor's a great shield. It needs to remain a shield, not a weapon.