Live a Full Life by Lisa

As a senior, it would have been really easy to justify doing the bare minimum this semester. I’ve worked hard for four years, don’t I deserve to take Golf, Human Sexuality, or Self Defense?  However, when I saw this class I knew this is what I needed to do with my last semester. If there is anything I’ve learned from JMU, it’s that life is truly gratifying when you are taking all it has to offer.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to take experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

I see this class as an opportunity to use my time at JMU, and my life, to the fullest. It gives me the opportunity to explore new cultures, perspectives, and ways of thinking. It is a chance to experience more of the world, and to open my eyes and my mind to life beyond suburban America. After all, what greater purpose is there for education than to become more enlightened and aware?

Now all of this sounds beautiful, and it is, but let’s also acknowledge the elephant in the blog. It’s a class on genocide—a morbid, dark, and overwhelming topic. The subject itself makes for an automatically challenging class.  But as I’m learning, this is the very reason this class needs to exist. By being in this class I am confronting the evils that allow genocide to exist—discursive complexity, blind eyes, and carefully construed language. I am talking about it with others, and encouraging more people to think about it on a deeper level than just that movie they saw once or the book they read in middle school.  After just one class discussion, I am already thinking of genocide a little differently, such as speaking of genocide in terms of action and agent, not location. That was just one person changed by one discussion, think of the kinds of change this class can create by taking it beyond the walls of the classroom.

But like I said, this is a challenge. I know I will have to experience a lot of personal growth to become mentally and emotionally strong enough for such a heavy topic. I will to have to allow my optimism and faith to be tested so that I can experience paradigm shifts in myself and encourage them in others. I have to confront all of these obstacles within myself so that I can begin to overcome the many that keep us from eliminating genocide.  It is an amazing opportunity.

It wasn’t easy to do the bare minimum when I saw the opportunity to make a difference. As a senior at JMU, I don’t know how to take a backseat. I want to be the change. So with my last semester, I am tackling my own misconceptions and becoming more informed so that I can help make the discussion on genocide louder.

Lisa

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Eyes Wide Open by Jami

Interesting. Fascinating. Heart breaking. Shocking. Appalling. Depressing. Captivating. These adjectives only represent a handful of the emotions I felt during our first class meeting of the semester. I have always been a conscientious student, but I have never had a class or a topic hold my attention for a full two and a half hours and continue to hold my attention for days after. I have never taken a class like this that gives you so much room to grow and room to think. Classes are usually extremely rigid. They force you to think a certain way. But in the first 5 minutes, I knew this class was going to be different and I am so glad it is. My boyfriend picked me up after class and the second I got in the car I couldn’t stop telling him about everything I had just seen and learned. I proceeded to come home and tell my roommate all about it too. The next day on the phone I told my parents about it. After each encounter trying to explain to everyone else about what our class entails and all that we discussed on the first day, I felt myself becoming frustrated. No one really understands! I know that I’m definitely not an expert after one class period, but I also know that my eyes are certainly WIDE open. I could tell just by talking to other people that their eyes really aren’t open at all to this terrible but intriguing reality. Before our first class, I was just like everyone else. Clueless. The reactions I got from the other people were not what I wanted. It made me feel embarrassed that I used to be ignorant, unaware, and ill informed to something so important.

Our generation is different from past generations because we aren’t afraid to expose things that previous generations considered taboo. For instance, our grandparents would have never even thought twice about rendering the topic of birth control, or domestic violence, but today there are countless ads and commercials and even T.V shows that expose these topics frequently. While these “problematic” topics here in the U.S. don’t even begin to compare to genocide, I plan on using this class as an outlet to educate myself on an issue that everyone else is scared to face. By educating myself, I can be an advocate and start the “talk” about genocide which is an issue that truly deserves recognition. Recognition will just be the first step, because the termination of genocide and ultimately change is what I hope to be a part of.

In class we touched on the fact that our society really only accepts and remorse’s over one genocide in particular, which is that of the Holocaust. Literally, before our first class, again, I was a part of our society who is unaware of how much more genocide exists beyond the Holocaust. And maybe not everyone in our society is unaware. Maybe some people know. But they definitely don’t talk about it. And talk is what I think we need to change it.

The documentary that we watched toward the end of class last week really struck a few different chords with me. It made me happy to see a chosen few being taken to the U.S. for a better life, but it was sad to see those lists of names being stapled to the board all of the Sudanese boys huddled around praying that their name was on there. They all deserve a better life. But is our way of life here in the U.S. really a better life for them? I’ve been thinking about that documentary all week because I think we all agreed that some parts, watching them figure out our world was humorous, but on the other hand, is that actually what they want? Our definition of a good life may not be the same as theirs.

My opinion on studying genocide thus far is that it’s one of those issues that we are going to have to take small steps with to really digest all that it is and all that it comes with. A heavy topic or not, I am thrilled to be jumping into this with such a genuine and awesome group of people. I can already tell that we are going to absorb all of the positivity and passion that Aaron has to really make a difference not only this semester but in every chance we get in the future.

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  — Milton Berle

~ * Jami

Week 1 Thoughts! by Gina

Last Tuesday was my first seminar-styled class and as the only freshman surrounded by students who are close to graduating I was intimidated. As we sunk into discussion about our readings that introduced us to the topic of genocide I remembered why I wanted to take this class.

My father worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and through that my family lived in Kenya and Sudan (although I was a baby when all of this happened). That was when we met our closest family friends. Since I’m the youngest, I always felt out of place during dinner parties and barbecues when the adults got into politics and Foreign Service discussions. I was never exposed to other cultures besides my mom’s Filipino side of the family. But even then, I still lived in Northern Virginia, in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. Most of my life focused on repetitive years of learning about American history and house league soccer tournaments.

At those get-togethers with our family friends, I ended up feeling helpless to join in on the conversations because it seemed like there were too many issues going on in the world and how could a fifteen year old girl from Sterling, VA do anything about that. I’d like to thank the program Invisible Children which introduced me to young humanists that can make a difference. I think Invisible Children is a brilliant program that targets young adults and encourages them to get involved with world issues, specifically the atrocities in the Congo.

I am finally seeing the importance in the topic genocide because it continues to be a problem and the world does not seem to react quickly enough to stop it. It’s unfortunate that I only learned about the Holocaust throughout my education career since seventh grade, yet nothing about Darfur or Rwanda.

A reading for class (Found in Aaron’s previous post) by John Deng Langbany,  a refugee from Sudan, tells his story of his journey of survival. He depicted it in such a casual tone for example:

“I remember how the elders had shown us how to protect ourselves, so I covered myself with a person who was dead”

It was said in class (don’t remember who said it, still tryna remember names!) that our elders, as Americans, tell us to look both ways before we cross the street, although, in Sudan there are children who are told to hide under a dead body to avoid being killed. It’s incredibly frustrating how such violence is ignored by other humans, even Nations, because they’re seen as “their own issue”.  There are powerful governments with powerful militaries yet the argument against state sovereignty interference exists for political reasons. I have yet to fathom the fact that there are too many complications that prevent the stopping of such atrocities.

So this semester I hope to gain full knowledge of recent genocides with the possible ways of preventing them from occurring in the future. I plan to confront the issues that I previously did not understand along with other global affairs because things can definitely be done to change the world’s response to genocide, even just talking about it.

-Gina

*Edit:

I had some intense daydreams today and one of them was about how genocides can occur even in the most “developed” countries such as the U.S. I’m referring to the Native Americans. And it’s ironic that I thought about that today since its Martin Luther King Day. This just brings me more frustration that it took hundreds of years for African Americans to get equal rights and respect as human beings.

The “Real World” by Kelly

Genocide study is incredibly important because it is a part of history and therefore makes it part of the present. When the word ‘genocide’ is mentioned, I’m sure that 85% of individuals solely think of the Holocaust. It is unfortunate that before enrolling in this course, I could be considered one of those individuals. Genocide has affected so many individuals in the world and by studying our history along with the histories of others, we are able to gain a better understanding of the world around us.

This leads me to the reasoning behind why I am taking this course. As I am more frequently coming to the realization that I will be entering the ‘real world’ in a little less than four months, I also realize that I am completely unaware of the world around me. By studying genocide, I hope to open my eyes to the many histories that affected individuals of all cultures that I will faced with in this so-called ‘real world.’ I plan on growing as an individual who is an active member of society and who understands why people act the way they do. I think that by examining the past, especially genocides, we are able to better understand people today and people in the future.

During this class, I plan to confront harsh realities of how truly terrible some individuals can be. I think we all would like to push the worst part about individuals from our minds, but it’s about time that I submerge myself in the harsh truths about genocide. I know that during the course of this class, we will be faced with facts that we cringe at or that we hate to hear, but I plan on confronting those facts rather than trying to shove them aside, no matter how difficult it may be.

The toughest aspect of studying genocide will be reading about and discussing such gruesome things, and still being able to have a positive outlook on life. Although this class only meets once a week, the thoughts that we will be having about genocide will not just be thought during our two and a half hour sessions. Beyond those thoughts, the feelings that we will experience during class will not be able to be dismissed every Tuesday night at 7:30pm. Being able to remain positive and upbeat while learning about genocide will prove to be the toughest aspect of this course.

Kelly

I Want to Make the World a Better Place – by Lauren

For as long as I can remember I have always studied and found interest in the topics such as third-world countries, poverty in other countries, genocides, children in third world countries and more.  I can remember talking about Darfur and my friends look at me as if I was talking about such a foreign topic.  It was always so weird to me that my friends didn’t know about these things happening in other countries and even though I did have an idea, I couldn’t give the information I wanted to give on such important and poignant topics.

For where I live and the way I grew up is 100% different than so many other people.  I think this is what makes me so frustrated.  Why and how at the same time, with so many advancements in our everyday life can genocides be still going on.  How come there and not here?  How can it not stop?  How can we let it all happen again?

All of these questions race through my head as I inquire more and more knowledge about such a heart-breaking topic.  It is flabbergasting to me that more people don’t know about something so big and over-taking, yet all of the world can know when Kim Kardashian and her husband get a divorce.  This, is why I want to study genocides.  I want to bridge the gap between the ignorance, stereotypes and turned shoulder to the actual truth and devastation of the matter.

I am beyond blessed and thankful for the life I am living.  I have the best family and friends, a continuing education, a great home and endless amounts of food.  It is beyond sad to say that so many people do not even have that and that is the least of their worries.   Their worry each day is to survive and make it through another day hoping and praying to see their family again.  How can this even happen? It blows my mind.

Hopefully throughout this course I will be able to see that genocides are not just killing sprees, and that is so much more.  I want to be able to know this knowledge that is so important, tell others and get others heated about it so therefore one day maybe genocides can be put to an end.

There is so much going on in our world, with knowledge and ideas and concepts being pushed beyond limits.  You would think that the concept of killing a whole race, ethnicity or any category would not be able to happen anymore.  I know that there are so many concepts that are put into play as to why genocides still occur such as sovereignty and more but I think the underlying problem of it all is a huge underlying issue.   An issue that no matter where you live, how much money you have, the color of your skin or anything still affects people day to day.  The issue that we need to be more open to other people, no one is better than you and you are not better than anyone else.

Diversity is everywhere.  It is not something we should turn our back to or be scared of, it is something that we should embrace and be proud of.  Accepting people is not only necessary but is what will make the whole world a better place.

I know I have a lot of views and thoughts and desires to make the world a better place.  I hope this class can open my mind, expand my knowledge and help me make a difference.  I am excited for everything that is in store for this class this semester, and the opportunity to open my mind and expand my knowledge.

Lauren