Guest Author - Lisbeth Cheever-Gessaman
If you’re here reading this, then the chances are good that you are interested in, concerned and want to do more about Human Rights in general, but aren’t sure exactly where to start. How in the world can just one person make a difference?
The images are thrust at us daily; starving children, mothers in distant lands, blood and tears streaming down their faces. Rubble and chaos and violence assault our senses nearly every time we turn on the news or flip the page in a magazine. How do we decide whom to help, and really what can just one person do?
And in the end, we change the channel or turn the page and simply do nothing.
It is this apathy, this numbing away of action that is the single most damaging blow to the cause of humanity in general. It has become so pathetically easy for us to mark our caring by the emotions that we feel rather than the actions of our will. As if watching the latest 20/20 episode on Darfur, and being stirred emotionally constitutes contribution. Letting it be someone elses problem – someone who knows more, has more money or more contacts. Someone who is paid to care. We, after all, are here to feel.
After World War II, the single question on everyones mind was ‘How could the German people have let this happen’? After Rwanda, the same questions were asked. It is infernally easy, after the dust clears, to separate the lack of any action at all from our own conscience by simply blaming the culture itself. And in the words of George Santanyana “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.:
Each of us bears a singular responsibility for doing the most that he or she can – however small or seemingly insignificant that may be. Ask yourself this question: Is the world a better place than when you arrived because of what you have consciously undertaken to improve upon it?
Each day is a new opportunity for life. Each moment presents itself as a question.
What then is your own, individual answer?
Today, here are three simple things that you can do – without moving away from the computer on which you are reading this – to make a change. To be that difference.
Tomorrow, Darfur may still be in conflict. Women may still be rolled up and burned in Carpets in Sudan. Children are just as likely to be speared through by the bayonet of the Jinjaweed. But the day after that could be changed by the action that you determine to take at this moment.
It is certain though that to do nothing, will bring exactly that result.
Be a Witness
beawitness.org features a simple form that you can fill out which will be emailed to the major networks of your choosing, demanding to know why there is not more coverage of Darfur. At this writing, over 400,000 people have been brutally murdered in what is a government backed genocide with virtually no coverage whatsoever. Even the email is already written for you – all you have to do is provide your name and address info.
Be a Witness
Join Amnesty International
One of the preeminent organizations standing for ethical treatment of all human beings as well as being non-political and non-partisan, AI provides up to date reports and articles that detail the most urgent issues at hand. Joining is free (albeit that is confusing given that the page to join on asks you for a donation – simply type in ‘0.00’ in the ‘other’ amount and continue filling out the form).
Demand Action for the Prisoners of Guantanamo
Write President Bush and demand that either the prisoners at Guantanamo are released, or charged. No one is supporting terrorism or freeing those that would murder innocent victims in the name of any cause. But the Bush administrations current stand on detainee treatment stands in violation of the Geneva Conventions. If these prisoners are indeed guilty of terrorism or any other criminal acts, then let them be charged, tried and punished accordingly. To simply hold them in perpetuity is an unacceptable act of power.
The form on AI’s site is ready to go – you simply populate your personal information and hit send. Of course, you can modify it as you choose as well.
Demand Action Now!
Please write me and let me know if you did any of these things to make a difference. I'd really love to hear what you did, and encourage you in your new role as 'Human Rights Activist'. But please - I implore you: Do something more than simply reading this column.
And never ever forget: Working together, we can change the world.