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when the things you’ve seen haunt you

October 7, 2010

The youngest ones, the ones too small to carry a weapon, are sent to the front lines.  They carry only a whistle.  They blow the whistles to scare away the enemy.

When that doesn’t work, their job is to receive the bullets the enemy fires.

When they fall, their bodies become inadequate shields for the other child soldiers.

After an evening of telling a powerful story, a story he has surely told 100s of times by now, Sean Carasso still trips over this part.

His voice catches, he slows down, the silence in the room thickens.

This is real.  This isn’t just a story.  This happened.

This is still happening, right now, and it is something that Sean has witnessed.  The experience has marked him. He cannot ignore it. Neither should I.  Neither should you.

I seem to be more sensitive lately.  Maybe it’s hormonal, or age-related.  Maybe it’s the demise of summer, or my daughter’s last year at home.  Maybe it’s how I’ve always been – I have been known to weep at movies, country songs, and sappy ads, for as long as I can remember.

And lately, even more so.

I was surprised then, to find myself not crying when the Falling Whistles team came to Bellevue College recently – the first stop on a national tour to increase awareness of the current situation in the Congo.  We heard Sean recount the story of his first visit to Africa.

As powerful a story as it is, as awful as the conditions are for the children in the Congo, I was more moved to Action, than I was to Tears.

I think that was Sean’s goal exactly.

He was pragmatic, clear, completely without melodrama, committed to increasing awareness, to starting a conversation, and keeping it going.

On that note, I don’t want to start drama or hand-wringing here.  I do want to encourage you to visit the Falling Whistles website, to learn more, to ask questions.

The wars in the Congo have always been about natural resources.  Imperial, colonial, industrial, and modern high-tech nations have long wanted what is hidden in the heart of Africa.  And there have always been those – from within or without the area – willing to provide it, at appalling cost to the local residents of the region.

The consumer or end-user has usually been content to avoid the hard questions about how they came by their _____________.  (Fill in blank with iron, copper, ivory, slaves, rubber, gold, diamonds, or the conflict minerals used in consumer electronics niobium and tantalum.

Are you okay with children bearing the ultimate cost for the consumer electronics you enjoy?

If not, speak up.

That doesn’t mean you should give up your beloved iPhone or Droid.  You don’t have to return your DVD or BluRay player.  It doesn’t mean chuck your laptop and dig Grampa’s Underwood typewriter out of the attic.

It does mean we – the consumers – must demand conflict-free electronics: learn what that means, be part of the conversation.

Ask the hard questions. If we don’t, who will?

At the first whistle-stop of the tour, Falling Whistles screened a beta version of their movie, Peace is the New Frontier.  We had the honour to meet Yves, the Congolese man you’ll see in the video, now released.

In Seattle, you can see a Falling Whistles installation at Deli.  Buy your own whistle there or on the FW website.  Be a whistleblower for peace.

Live toward what ought to be.

^^^

Update: Falling Whistles featured this post on their blog.  Check back there to learn more about the important work they are doing.

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