Work in Progress

Baseball, Seminary, Wrestling, and the Dreams and Days of one Mike Work's Angeles experience

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

I wrote the last post while watching Hotel Rwanda with the housemates. Of the multiple resonant scenes, one image and one line in particular seared themselves into my consciousness. After Paul Rusesabagina, a five-star hotel manager played by Don Cheadle, thanks Jack, a cameraman played by Joaquin Phoenix, for shooting footage of the massacre, Jack's response is, "I think if people see this footage, they'll say, 'Oh, my God, that's horrible.' And then they'll go on eating their dinners."

The contrasting image that lingers is that of Paul after he rides out into the fields and sees the corpses firsthand. The man goes back to his hotel, and attempts to get dressed and go about his day. He can't do it, and rips away his shirt and tie before falling on the floor, quivering in agony.

The massacre just became real.

One of the books that we read in Children at Risk this quarter was Good News About Injustice, written by Gary Haugen. Haugen begins the book with a recounting of his trip to Rwanda after the genocide. There he met the truth, and it became real. In part because of this experience, and the personalization of injustice, he founded the International Justice Mission, a human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression.

I'll be the first to admit that I struggle to commit to nonviolence and to non-coercive practices of power. The tougher confession is that much of the time, I don't see violence as a problem. It's an integral part of the culture I come from, and is largely part of how things are. I've been almost completely desensitized to violence, having seen it daily through various mediums, and would have to see murder close-up for the reality to affect me. As Mike Work, red-blooded WMA, my typical reaction is to shrug it off as 'something that happens.' The common correlate is to ignore the fact that a person's life was taken from them, and that this person's family and friends just suffered a tremendous loss, and that this loss was real. Life goes on.

I associate this with strength.

What if I'm entirely and utterly wrong?

What if courage is found not in shrugging off injustice and accepting it, but in looking abuse of power and violence against others in the eye, saying 'this is wrong,' and living out of that truth?


  • At 8:48 AM, Anonymous kevin said…

    Friend, I think you are correct. Looking somebody in the face of injustice and exclaiming disapproval is strength, but don't let it be corrupting power. Strength is for service not for status. Power is a status symbol.

    Lets chill soon friend.

  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger Kevin Lewis said…

    Mike, I remember being struck by that same line in Hotel Rwanda. It is especially true in an age when we are bombarded with images and sounds of pain and destruction. Less than a hundred years ago, hardly anyone would have known about the tsunami or the hurricane, and I wonder if we sometimes try to take on too much in what we see, so we end up being powerless and apathetic. Is there a balance of how much we can psycologically handle in this world? Do we need to choose a few things locally and globally to fight for, or should we continue to try to fix the world. I know that isn't a feasible endeavor, especially when the only one who can do anything is our Lord. Sometimes I rely on myself way too much.


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