First posted on Facebook on 14 March 2019
© 2019 A. Happy Umwagarwa
All Rights Reserved.
From our PAST to our FUTURE through our PRESENT.
Is history written or taught to uplift us or erase our existence?
When the task to write history is left in the hands of propagandists, whether disguising as scholars or as witnesses of historical events, the ordinary citizens suffer the wounds of memory and identity crises.
In his novel, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ George stated, “He who controls the past, controls the future; and he who controls the present, controls the past.” I found his words intriguing and thought-provoking. However, I should say that I needed a level of intelligence I may not have to understand what he meant. I guessed he referred to ‘power’ because I could see the verb ‘to control.’ I wanted to believe that the only way those who control the present can control the past would be by distorting, rewriting, or revising history. But, how about those who control the past? How can they influence the future? Would they be able to do so if they lose control of the present?
In addition to what George Orwell stated, I also reflected on what Judith Lewis Herman noted in her book titled ‘Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror.’ She said, “To escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”
We often see different Rwandans who try as much as possible to deny what happened in daylight. We see those who state that they admit it happened but downplay its magnitude or importance. They like to get lost in theories and statistics as if numbers and means matter more than the atrocity itself.
Most of these people want to run away from accountability for those crimes. Some fear to face the fact that they were adults when babies were being slaughtered or in leadership positions when the country turned dark with the sounds of weeping women and children.
Yes, the jurists may have not made some Rwandans accountable, but their conscious minds remind them they cannot escape from their responsibilities through what they did (commission) or did not (omission) during the times our country needed them most. When these denialists and propagandists take the lead in writing history and influence our takes from our past, we, the ordinary citizens get lost and miss our ways to a brighter future. We should understand that their aim is simply to play the politics of memory by either using our memory to their advantage or doing all they can to erase and discredit our memory.
Let me share with you a couple of other important quotes:
“I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self.” ― Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.
“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.” ― Oscar Wilde, De Profundis.
“There is no point in using the word ‘impossible’ to describe something that has clearly happened.” ― Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
I want to conclude with the following most important of all quotes:
“If you desire healing, let yourself fall ill” ― Rumi
I will write a lot about the Genocide against the Tutsi in the months to come. As the late singer, Kizito Mihigo once sang, “the Genocide against the Tutsi is a cross Rwanda shall always carry.” I would say that it is a cross all Rwandans should carry. We should remember. We should tell our children that there was a time when politics, chauvinism, sub-racism (if you like) led some Rwandans to kill their compatriots, neighbors, friends, and sometimes relatives. We should all get ill about the fact that the worst of human tragedies happened in our beautiful country. We should all feel bad about that fact. We should all be ashamed of what happened. Repeating what Rumi stated, “If we want to heal, we should allow ourselves to fall ill.” It’s only by hating what happened in the past that we shall love to take our nation to a future free from the ills of the past. Let’s take the treatment today, in our present.
Today, I am talking about history in general. I am talking about all those historical events that robbed the lives of our people. I am talking about the genocide against the Tutsi. I am also talking about violent conflicts and wars. All of these traumatized Rwandans’ souls and left wounds that bleed sadness, anger, bitterness, and fear. Please let’s not deny or distort the truth about any of those historical events. We have friends, relatives, and compatriots who live with nightmares of those events. We have in our society Rwandans who were orphaned or widowed by those events. Let’s not deny their souls the opportunity to heal.
Thanks for reading.
My name is Umwagarwa
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