Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dutch Feat

Dr. Ashis Brahma [on right]

This evening a Save Darfur event was held at Edina High School. Principal Bruce Locklear ('Doc Loc') starts the event off; about 250 people attend. A house-of-mirrors mutual flattery suffuses; the principal is bowled over by the love and sincerity of today's youth, whose leaders are themselves as concerned as can be by the suffering in Africa. Two representatives from Edina High's STAND chapter then introduce a Sixty Minutes segment on Darfur--which we view for seven minutes, until the technology abruptly crashes. They then introduce keynote speaker Dr. Ashis Brahma, of the Netherlands.

Brahma preaches a sub-lyrical Bob Marleyite life philosophy; he maintains 'one eye crying' at what he sees on this earth, with the other laughing--he tells us twice. (Not a metaphor original or poignant enough to merit repetition, alas.) He shows us Hangala, Darfur, Sudan and a later, incinerated photo of same--and tells us that hundreds of villages have been erased by the Jangjaweed.

Brahma finds two Sudanese men in the audience and establishes fraternal solidarity. He says the Sudanese are wonderful people--and 'very hospitable'. (Just once one would enjoy hearing of some ethnic group somewhere--perfect in so many ways--but just 'not very hospitable.') Then the doctor asks Asians, then South Americans, then Australians in the audience to reveal themselves. A bit much.

We get lots of anecdote from the full-maned, Afrocentrically-dressed Dr. Brahma, but leave without a strong feeling of having any clue what the current situation is, despite his telling us that it's worse than ever and devolving. Brahma reviews several genocides in the past century, lamenting that after the Holocaust we said never again but again came anyway--and he lists several 'subsequent' genocides--quizzically including the WW1-era Armenian Genocide within his list.

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Brahma Bull: Dr. Brahma tells us it felt cool to be on Sixty Minutes in front of sixty million viewers and that Angelina Jolie has not only beautiful eyes 'but a beautiful heart too', that Zaghawa children are not permitted to cry and that 'not everything is bad about a genocide' [he tells us twice, in separate contexts]. That female genital mutilation 'is not something Africans should be proud of'. Judging others is wrong, in his view--and he quotes the bible for support. (Though elsewhere I'm quite sure the bible makes a judgmental statement or two.) Brahma informs us that he loves ambiguity--and that women are amazing creatures because they give life.

Perhaps it's unfair to blame the audience for Dr. Brahma's gushy, overly-broad, cloying rhetorical love-feast. I can bear no more, but as I rise to leave the hilariously wooden Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy takes the lectern, imploring Erik Paulsen's staffer to join her on stage to receive the students' oversized petition. John-Paul Yates stands as far from the banner-presenters as possible, but eventually senses an end is in sight and relaxes. Kennedy tells us it's too early to glean Erik Paulsen's antigenocide bona fides; Yates resumes his seat, rolled-up scroll in hand.
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