Monday, November 28, 2011

On Things Bigger Than Myself

I am blessed, darling readers.  Now, I don't tend to use the word "blessed" a lot, but I am blessed.  I am blessed to live in a country where our elections are relatively free and fair and where I do not need to fear that I might be raped, killed, or abducted on the way to the polls.

I am blessed to live in a place where I do not have to fear for my life, where I have not ever known someone who has been forced into slavery or war.  I am blessed to live in a place where I can enjoy more comforts that the modern world has to offer than I will ever realistically need.

Today, however, I was reminded that there are a lot of people who aren't so lucky.  As a member of Model UN, I was excited that an organization that I am happily a part of hosted Falling Whistles, an NGO about the conflict in the Congo.  And while their presentation was not as clear and informed as I would have liked, the event jump-started a conversation within our organization, and one I hope might spread to the rest of our campus, about a conflict that is responsible for the deaths of over 5 million people.

I speak from a position of privilege.  The coltan used in the capacitors of my laptop and phone is likely conflict-mined, though not necessarily from the Congo (though conflict-mining and smuggling of coltan, tin, tungsten, and copper in the Congo has contributed heavily to the body count in the ongoing conflict).  I speak as someone who has never truly feared for her life or grown up in a conflict zone.  But I speak as someone who does have a legitimate interest in the situation in the Congo.

Today, also, marks a historic day in the DRC, as it was their third election. Ever. In their history.  As of this evening, violence has been reported at and around polling locations, and at least two deaths have been reported.  But the day is still historic.  And while I would like to say the world is watching, I fear that they probably aren't.  Most people I know are watching Monday Night Football instead.  But it truly is historic.  Free and fair elections are signs of progress, potential, and hope for peace.

While we've been arguing about just how much the top 1% should be taxed, whether we should be funding Defense Department projects from the Soviet era, or whether government health care is socialism, children have been drawn into war, women have been raped, and thousands have died.  And people wonder why I think sometimes we need a little more perspective.

Consciously yours,
Rachel Leigh

Also, if you're interested in finding out more:
Falling Whistles:
Friends of the Congo (another major non-profit focusing on the Congo):
Enough Project (an NGO focusing on Sudan and the Congo, with particular reports on conflict mining):

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