Over the last few years, I’ve done a “Year In Review” post where I take a look at all the things, good and bad, that happened to me over that year. I like to look at what worked for me over the year, what I could have done better, and what I hope to accomplish for the next year. This year’s post, albeit two weeks late, is going to be slightly different. Today, I am going to talk about the one resolution that I made last year, the one that above everything else I tried so very hard to adhere to. That resolution was hate.
I have watched many movies and read many books chronicling various atrocities that humans have wrought upon one another. I’ve been to torture museums and war museums. I’ve walked through trenches dug in World War I, and buildings bombed during World War II. I’ve seen how hatred for the colour of one’s skin has led to segregation and annihilation. I’ve put myself in the position of seeing these things because I find it fascinating. I find it fascinating because although I know that these horrible events have occurred, I just find it so hard to believe that they actually did. I just can’t comprehend how humans can be so cruel to one another.
Enter Rwanda. I was in Rwanda for Christmas last year, and I admit to not knowing much about the history of the country, save for what I learned when I watched ‘Hotel Rwanda.’ I knew that it had a bloody past. It was a country that almost succeeded in the genocide of one group of its peoples. We were heading to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, and I knew that it was going to be a heavy day for my heart.
A brief history for those not in the know: on April 7, 1994 – July 1994, over the course of 100 days, approximately 800,000-1,000,000 Rwandans, mostly the Tutsi people, were killed. The murder was not only done by the army, but it was done by former friends and neighbours. The person you shared a meal with the day before could be the same person that slaughtered your wife and kids in front of you the next day. Rape was used as a weapon, causing a huge rise in HIV, including new babies from mother’s who suffered this disgrace. The machete was the weapon of choice. Blood ran through the streets, and the stench of death and decay hung over the country like a cloud. Driving through Kigali, I would see people missing limbs, who were around my age, and I knew that they most likely survived the genocide, but at what cost?
A Canadian UN Peacekeeper, Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, was in charge of heading UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda), and despite the opposition he faced by a world that seemingly didn’t care, he did an amazing job at helping as many people as he could during his time in Rwanda.
I walked through this memorial, tears in my eyes, as I fully came to understand first-hand at just how much power for destruction the word ‘hate’ can have. It was then that I vowed my New Year’s Resolution, hell, even just a Life Resolution, was to remove the word HATE from my vocabulary. Over the year, I’ve made a conscious effort to replace the word ‘hate’ at every possible moment. I would often catch myself saying it, and change my words to something less dramatic. I won’t say I made it the entire year without using the word, as I know at least a handful of times it slipped through my lips. It became apparent to me at just how often I used this word for such trivial things.
I truly believe that this one small step, this one change in vocabulary, entered my psyche and actually helped me lead a more positive and understanding life over the last year. I had to think more when I spoke. I had to choose my words more carefully. I had to take into account what the word ‘hate’ has done to people and to use it so carelessly is to take away the true meaning of the word, where we forget just what ‘hate’ can cause us to do to one another.
If you’re interested in reading an amazing (but extremely sad) book about these events, I highly recommend: Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire.