Why people ‘cut the tall trees’

(TFC) – For years, across multiple outlets, I used the platform I was granted to speak out and mobilize people against ethnic cleansing occurring anywhere in the world, every time I could. During that period my social media presence grew. I never encountered people telling me I was worrying too much or we should ignore it. Most people got involved. Now people are advocating ethnic cleansing in the United States, and there is a reluctance to even admit it, much less condemn it. It’s easy to speak out against an injustice or a danger from safety. It’s easy to convince yourself that you would do the right thing if faced with the same prospects as the people in Bosnia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Yemen, or any of the other places I’ve covered. It’s easy to believe it won’t happen here. It’s easy to post on Facebook about the thoughts and prayers for those murdered. Those who were murdered, lost their lives because people in their own nations refused to recognize and condemn the idea of ethnic cleansing when it first reared its ugly head.

Yes, it is a small number of people in the United States who are currently advocating it. People in Rwanda didn’t wake up one morning and decide to murder their neighbors with a machete on a whim. People advocated long before then. They organized. Then one morning a radio signal told people to “cut the tall trees” and genocide happened. In 100 days, 800,000 people were murdered, 500,000 women were raped, and millions were displaced.

Rwandan genocide.
Image Source: Dylan Walters, Flickr, Creative Commons

On April 5th, 1994 there was mild tension but nobody could have predicted genocide except those plotting it. On April 6th, the President was killed. Killings began. April 9th, hundreds were massacred at a church. The violence continued to escalate and none dared to call it genocide. On April 18, more than 62,000 were killed in a single day.  Just nine days after the first massacre, the dead filled stadiums.

By the time those plotting ethnic cleansing act, it’s too late to organize resistance. It’s too late to condemn it. it’s too late to act. At that point, they’re committed, there is no debate to be had, and you might as well be talking to the machete held to your throat. When people openly admit they want ethnic cleansing, you need to believe them. History has shown us those who don’t take these threats seriously end up in mass graves.