Since George W. Bush publicly mentioned the word “Darfur,” or made any other reference to it. In the meantime, the American public is apparently more interested in the Michael Jackson trial and the story of the “runaway bride” — that is, if you judge the American public’s interest by what you see on network news.
There’s an overwhelming frustration in reading op/eds like this one, because it comes down to the most basic collective action problem: I look at the situation in Darfur and I think, if there was something I could accomplish on an individual level, I’d do it. But it would take hundreds of thousands of people to ever be loud enough for the American government to listen and intervene. And hundreds of thousands of individuals simply do not have any incentive to raise up that kind of yell — in part because each of those individuals knows that, alone, their voice is meaningless. So I read op/eds like these, and for 45 minutes or so I feel overwhelmed and deeply frustrated and incredibly angry, and I write about it and I pray about it and I can’t help but ask myself, “Where is God in this one?” and I curse our despicable “pro-life” administration for not giving a damn about African lives, and I know it’s wrong but I can’t help wishing for a little Karmic justice. And then I shut off my new computer and I go to sleep in a warm bed and I wake up and I think about my upcoming summer trip, how I miss my friends from New York, my impending entrance into law school, and all these things that, compared to what the people over there are living through, are shallow and stupid and frivolous. I’ll think about that until I make myself cry out of frustration — I’ll admit it, I’m a sensitive person and yes, things like this upset me — and then I beat myself up for having the audacity to cry out of guilt when, really, I have nothing to cry over, and it’s even worse that I would be self-centered enough to allow myself the privilege of crying — to even think that I have the right to cry, as if this is in any way about me — over someone else’s situation that I can never possibly comprehend. I think, “Quit crying, you fucking moron. Go do something.” But then there seems like there’s nothing that can be done. So I get stuck in this back and forth in my own head, and it just feels like running into a brick wall.
And if that isn’t the definition of liberal middle-class white girl guilt, then I don’t know what is.
But I have to wonder — do you think George Bush goes to bed thinking about the people in Sudan? Do you think those millions of lives sit on his chest at night?
For what it’s worth, here aere are some ways to take action. If anyone else has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.