Friday, November 14, 2008

Romeo Dallaire

When I was in Grade 10 or 11, I took an optional history course about the modern world. We learned about controversial subjects such as the role of the media, the role of advertising, the Holocaust and the Holodomar. We also learned about the most important thing I ever learned in high school: the Rwandan genocide.

The Holocaust and the Holodomar are very important, and I don't mean to minimize the sheer tragedy of either, but the Rwandan genocide happened
while I was alive, while I was playing with my toys and watching my movies and reading my comics and living my tiny life. I was nine years old in 1994 and I had no idea it was happening.

I also learned about Romeo Dallaire.

I talk a lot about superheroes and fictions and stories. I tend to like superheroes such as Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, Captain America, etc. Men that stand up for what they believe in, men of conviction, of action.

Dallaire isn't a superhero. Dallaire's hands were tied during the genocide. He pleaded for more soldiers, and his request was refused. He became not a man of action, but an observer, forced to watch the most heinous and violent acts of that decade. He became a victim.

But his story doesn't end there. He was released from the military suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He was found under a park bench almost in a coma.

Amazingly, he rose from this dark pit and began lecturing about his experiences. He wrote a book called
Shake Hands with the Devil, and he was appointed a Senator.

Romeo Dallaire became a hero when he told his story. He became a hero when he told the story of the Rwandan Genocide. How he found the courage to tell this story is the reason why he is a hero, not because he was there.

I salute you, Dallaire, and I urge everybody to read his book and to learn about the genocide. It is only through education that we can avoid the same mistakes.

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