Last week I came across an interesting web site, Photos that Changed the World (thanks to kottke.org). Among the photos that grabbed me (c’mon, they’re photos that changed the world, they almost all grabbed me) was this one of a Sudanese child suffering from starvation while a vulture looks on in 1993:
The photograph won the Pulitzer prize. The photographer, Kevin Carter, later committed suicide (while the fame and controversy of this photo may have contributed to his death, it seems more complex than that). While the ethical questions of this photograph are important and complicated, that’s not what interests me.
What I found so intriguing about this photo is that it’s simply a little girl starving to death. When it comes down to it, something so incredibly simple and basic is killing her. The reasons for that suffering are much more complex, but in the end it’s pretty basic. She needs food and water. As damning as the photo is and as complex as the entire situation may be (are civil wars ever simple?), in the end it’s pretty simple.
That’s part of why I’m asking for water for my birthday. It’s staggering that something as simple as not having clean water is killing people. 4,500 children every day, to be exact. That’s a stupid reason to die. And as complex as the reasons may be for why these people don’t have clean water, the reason to act is pretty simple.
Water=life. That’s a pretty simple cause when you get down to it. There aren’t many people who will argue and protest the idea of giving starving people food or thirsty people clean water. Clean water is kind of a no-brainer. We may not agree on everything, but I’m hoping clean water is something everyone can agree on.
And if that’s all a little too heavy for you, perhaps a photo site of a completely different magnitude: Awkward Family Photos (thanks to Jason Boyett).
The news coming out of Sudan has been a bit bizarre this week as the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al Bashir on charges of war crimes. It’s the first time a warrant has been issued for a sitting head of state. In response, Sudan has been kicking international aid groups out of the country, threatening even more of the mess that Bashir is charged with in the first place.
What’s been especially interesting is the reaction of Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the international aid organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Graham wrote a New York Times op-ed piece arguing that Bashir should be left in power in order to maintain peace in Sudan.
So what’s more important? Peace or justice? It seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation to me. There may be peace right now, but it’s being held together by a tyrant accused of war crimes. But bringing justice means more unrest, hardship and possibly death.
It reminds me of the situation in Iraq (if you ignore the whole weapons of mass destruction thing). Do you leave a murderous tyrant in charge or oust him and risk the messy aftermath?
Seems to me that real, lasting peace only comes when justice is ensured. But it’s never an easy process. Especially when different people have different ideas of what constitutes justice. Getting along with people (never mind entire countries of people) is no easy thing.
We’ve got friends who are currently in Khartoum, which makes this whole thing a lot more personal. We also had the option of a fuel layover in Khartoum on our way to Ethiopia (we opted not to take that route). Makes the world feel a lot smaller.
If a week could suck, this one would be it:
- Found out Milo has been sick for a week with gastroenteritis. He’s doing better, but the little guy doesn’t have much weight to lose (Today we visited a two week old baby who’s bigger than 4-month-old Milo).
- Lexi threw up in her car seat on the way home from visiting said baby.
- Friends went through another miscarriage.
- Other friends in Sudan wait to see if they’ll be evacuated.
- Confronted a family crisis and the related fallout.
- A week of workplace drama escalated like a bigger/better party.
On the plus side:
- Distractions abounded, including the flurry of a U2 album release (did you see them do the top 10 list on Letterman?).
- I found out exactly how much the Federal government owes me (it’s like my own personal bailout!).
- Mazie didn’t eat anything she wasn’t supposed to (well, except for the feet of a little plastic girl of Lexi’s, but that doesn’t bother me because Lexi didn’t put it away).
- Ate at Los Cabos for the first time in months. Mmm… tasty.
- Two friends welcomed healthy, happy babies into the world.
- And best of all, I get to meet my son in two weeks.
Sometimes life is hard and messy and ugly, but there’s always beauty. In that sense, I’m an insufferable optimist. Life may not always be happy, but it is joyful.