6 Things I Learned About Humanity Living Through a Genocide


Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Carl protected more than just his friends. By the time the genocide ended he'd helped save hundreds of lives and somehow managed not to get shot once by any of the armed men he set about thwarting. No, Carl cannot access bullet-time. We checked. But it turns out that sometimes being white and foreign is almost as useful.

Via Carl Wilkens
All he needs is "powered by Earth's yellow sun" to complete the hat trick.

"It's hard to understand if you haven't been in a country where foreigners are loved and respected. If there were riots in America and we were like, 'Find a Venezuelan,' it'd be crazy. ... But here, foreigners are respected."

On one of the worst days of the genocide, Carl put himself between the militia with their guns and machetes and an orphanage with 400 people inside. He stayed that way for hours.

"And then a police officer came. I begged him to spend the night with the kids. He begged for me to find reinforcements. I don't know if the police spent the night, but he said he'd hold these guys at bay."

Via Worldwithoutgenocide.org
Reminder: These guys.

Carl left the orphanage in the police officer's care and rolled his pasty butt down to the mayor's office. He knew these militiamen had promised to kill everyone in that orphanage the day before, and he didn't know if that cop was the sort of dude who'd place himself between vulnerable people and bullets. When Carl reached city hall, the mayor wasn't home ...

"But his secretary was there. I'd built a relationship with this lady; I told her about the massacre about to happen, and she said, 'Well, look, the PM is here on a surprise visit: why not ask him?'"

Via Worldwithoutgenocide.org
On top of the foreigners thing, it helps to also imagine a country where
you can just bump into the prime minister in the course of a day.

For a wee bit of historical perspective, that prime minister was Jean Kambanda, the only head of a government to ever plead guilty to genocide. He wasn't the best person to ever find his way into office, is what we're saying.

Carl wondered, "Why would you ask one of the two to three people responsible for the genocide to stop the killing?"

But he talked to Kambanda about the orphans and their plight. The PM spoke with his entourage and told Carl that he was now aware of the situation, and he'd make sure the kids weren't harmed. Then he and Carl shook hands, posed for a picture, and the prime minister was off. Surprisingly, the next day all 400 of the orphans and their entourage were moved to a safer location. They survived the butchery, and we're honestly not sure what the lesson is here beyond: some monsters are polite, and you'll be surprised how many murders you can stop if you just ask nicely.

Adam Jones, Ph.D

Carl almost didn't get the chance to save all those kids. It turns out there were good reasons everyone else had fled the country: when the violence started, the city streets quickly filled with gangs of young men, looting and murdering like a palette-swapped Clockwork Orange.

"The second night of killing, before my family had left, an armed gang came and were ready to bust into our house, through our gate, but the neighbor ladies came and stood up for us. For four years we've been living together, our kids hanging out with the neighbors. I think these relationships were huge in motivating those moms to stand between the killers and our family."

mikeinlondon/iStock/Getty Images
Food for thought next time you feel like writing a passive-aggressive note about a neighbor's lawn.

These moms were Hutus -- the same ethnic group as the people waging genocidal war on the Tutsi minority.

"There were thousands of Hutus who weren't killing, and these ladies stood up for us and told stories about us taking them to the hospital, acts of kindness. But what really stuck with me was when they said, 'Their kids play with our kids. You can't go in that house.'"

See, young parents? Booking playdates saves lives.