Lessons never learned

Recently US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to a refugee camp in the Congo and was horrified to learn that rape is common there and in the towns, sometimes perpetrated against children as young as four.  Clinton, of course, is calling for action to address this appalling problem.

According to the BBC, from 1998 to 2003 armies from several countries fought each other on Congolese territory, resulting in an estimated four million deaths and rampant sexual violence.  The violence has continued over the years, and troops and rebels have continued to abuse women and children.

Clinton told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that she met a woman who was with her two children, ages 12 and 14, in their home when they were attacked. “She begged the rebels to rape her children first and finish with her because she had HIV/Aids. But she was crying because they didn’t listen.”

 I’ve included that last paragraph, not for shock value… actually, yes, for shock value,  because I don’t know that even I truly understood the horror of what I was reading until I read that. It should bring any reader to tears.  I am crying now.

Yurok Children

Yurok Children

 This is happening now. Today.  And I’ve posted it here because it does make me wonder sometimes at the value of history. If we are capable of learning.  One hundred and fifty two years ago, two white men went to the reservation on the Klamath River (reservation = prison or refugee camp) intent on finding and raping young Native girls.

When they found one they wanted, the mother of the girl resisted their attack and one of the men stabbed her.  “The brave fellows then took the young girl and another, and forced them to remain with them all night in one of the houses.”  [Humboldt Times, February 28, 1857].  Other Natives, friends and family of the girls, would have known what was happening all night long, but would have lost their own lives if they’d tried to stop it. 

 I’ve found no indication that the men were ever punished and this is but a single instance of the type of abuse that the natives suffered here over and over and over again.

  The following song started playing as I was typing this post.  It asks a damn good question.

Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together Lyrics

Tell me why, tell me why, tell me why.
Why can’t we live together?
Tell me why, tell me why.
Why can’t we live together?

Everybody wants to live together.
Why can’t we be together?

No more war, no more war, no more war…
Just a little peace.
No more war, no more war.
All we want is some peace in this world.

Everybody wants to live together.
Why can’t we be together?

No matter, no matter what colour.
You are still my brother.
I said no matter, no matter what colour.
You are still my brother.

Everybody wants to live together
Why can’t we be together?

Everybody wants to live.
Everybody’s got to be together.

Everybody wants to live.
Everybody’s going to be together.

Everybody’s got to be together.
Everybody wants to be together.

I said no matter, no matter what colour.
You’re still my brother.
I said no matter, no matter what colour.
You’re still my brother.

Everybody wants to live together.
Why can’t we be together?

Gotta live together…
Together.

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2 Responses to Lessons never learned

  1. Kym says:

    Lynette, I just finished catching up on your posts. I feel exhausted. Sometimes the ugliness in our history and in our now feels like a weight pressing us all down. The story you just told of the woman in the Congo brought the past into the now even more. Made me wonder how much more I should be doing–made me realize again how much we humans do the same ugly cruel things over and over.

  2. lynette77 says:

    Hi Kym,
    Yes, depressing as hell, isn’t it. Part of what is so hard for me about knowing and writing about this time period is that, especially when it comes to interaction between the whites and natives, there wasn’t much that was good.

    I want to write stories about folks that came through those experiences, realized the harshness of the early history, and redeemed themselves somehow. If someone knows a story like that, I’d sure like to hear it.

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