Thursday, July 19, 2007

Troubled times

Now that you’ve delved into World War II history a bit (yesterday’s post), you can read about the rupture of Berlin. The Berlin Wall: a world divided, 1961-1989, by Frederick Taylor, tells the sad story of a city ripped in half. The tension between capitalist West (America, in fact) and communist East (Soviet Russia, really) was at its most visible and aggressive along the border that divided Berlin in half. Families were split overnight as the barricades went up, and this division not only continued in physical form for almost 30 years, it has left scars in the people of reunified Germany to this day. I actually have a piece of the wall, given to me by a friend whose family was stationed in Berlin when the wall was torn down in 1989. Very cool.
The final book in our History Week selections is really more of a current event, but history will judge the world – and the West – harshly for its handling of this crisis. The Devil Came on Horseback: bearing witness to the genocide in Darfur, by Brian Steidle, is not a book you graze through on your lunch hour. The photos alone will make sure of that. The author, a former Marine Captain, was hired as one of three on-the-ground monitors by the African Union. He arrived in Darfur in 2004, and spent about 6 months traveling the region, interviewing, photographing and witnessing the genocide. Powerless to do anything but watch, Steidle resigned his post and returned to the U.S., where he has been trying to make his experiences heard. Politicians like to use the phrase ‘Never Again’ when they refer to past genocides, but saying something doesn’t make it so, does it?

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