ART BY MEGAN LIEN
Jews, Armenians, Rohingyas. Three ethnic groups from three different countries, all inextricably linked by one action, one operation, one word.
Genocide. The Germany of World War II served as Ground Zero for the annihilation of Jews under a crazed dictator. The Ottoman Empire of World War I played the tragic setting for 1.5 million Armenians. Modern day Myanmar is this generation’s genocide central.
Perhaps you haven’t heard of the Rohingya. It isn’t surprising. Unlike the Jewish plight — required reading in the average history class — or the Armenian nightmare which, by the way, took years to make major press, the Rohingya is definitively the world’s most unknown yet most persecuted minority.
A stateless Muslim people, these Indo-Aryans have had the odds stacked against them from the start. Hated by Myanmar’s Buddhist military and majority population, the Rohingya have faced open acts of persecution from the government explicitly at least five times in history; they are to Myanmar what the Jews were to Egypt in Biblical times: different, dispensable, and subhuman.
Why does it matter now?
When a modern state authorizes state-sanctioned rapes, it should matter. When a modern state purposely plants land mines in fleeing refugees’ paths, it should matter. When a modern state actively massacres thousands and displaces another 400,000, it should matter.
Yet it doesn’t. At least, not in the United States.
Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, there has been little fanfare or attention for one of humanity’s greatest injustices. To put it into perspective, nightly news deems reporting on a president’s frantic tweeting more important.
The Rohingya genocide should serve as exhibit number one in the People’s case against an increasingly desensitized, apathetic America. In the age of social media, is it not ironic that the technological tool meant to connect the world has instead provided most a little bubble to live in? We can happily scroll through our Twitter feeds, liking and retweeting a friend’s problems, but we simply cannot find it in our hearts to care about the world around us. For a nation that preaches peace, awareness, and justice, we have done little.
Because of this, we also waive our rights to criticize or label Myanmar’s struggles. Much like not voting during the election nulls said person’s ability to pass acerbic judgment on the president, apathy regarding the Rohingya plight equates to a lack of say in what happens there. It is easy for the passive American to flippantly decry Myanmar’s military regime and criticize its democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi from a cushy suburb in the States. It is much more difficult to take the time to understand it.
The situation in Myanmar is one of immense political uncertainty, as the country struggles with polar forces. The fledgling democracy there fears the overbearing military control, working to navigate the growing pains of a newborn government system. Most of all, Myanmar is a broken nation, economically and ideologically.
All this is not to say the United States government has not attempted to pledge support; thirty two million dollars worth of humanitarian aid is fast on its way to the refugees. Yet, it is not the tangible support that ought to matter but the moral one. As we attempt to make genocide more palatable, using terms like “ethnic cleansing” or “minority purging” as substitutes, we lull ourselves into a false sense of apathy. Our generation, a generation that lives on slogans like “stay woke” or “all lives matter” fails to do either.
Myanmar should be our wake-up call. It should be society’s case study on our increasingly indifferent world view. Most importantly, it should hit closer to home that it currently is doing so. Myanmar may be first, but others will follow, and America is not immune. The only difference? Guns and bullets rule Myanmar, thinly-veiled discriminative policy rule current-day United States.