Today I accompanied a friend to hear her speak about her experience with a subject matter that few of us have any experience with beyond a news report. A former Police Sargeant with the Waterloo Regional Police Service, she also travelled to Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur as an investigator of war crimes with the United Nations and other groups gathering information to stop atrocities or put the insitgators and perpetrators behind bars.
Debbie Bodkin (google her name and you can watch her interview with George Strombolopoulos, visit her webpage and read more about her work) was transformed by her experiences and after overcoming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression now speaks to groups to further her goal of making a difference, one person at a time.
We met at a local high school where she addressed a group of students as a presenter to their Global History class. I'd not heard Debbie speak before, and was pleased that she invited me. I was riveted.
Atrocities of the "humanity against itself" version are distressing, but the scale on which these war crimes occured are particularly disturbing. In fact there isn't a word in the English language that can convey the horror, lack of humanity, and unbelievable absence of compassion that Debbie witnessed.
I could scarce imagine surviving Debbie's experience of gathering information by listening to survivors, often lone survivors of an entire, extended family, recount their experiences. Actually living through the deliberate obliteration of an ethnic group or destruction of an entire village, characterized by a level of brutality that is so foreign to those of us who are lucky enough to be born in a country that at the moment is peaceful, is truly inconceivable.
As Debbie said, it takes just one person being allowed to spread an evil message of hatred, often fueled by greed or personal gain, to begin a process of abominal proportions that establishes a regime that will become a shameful blemish in humanity's history. Just one person who rather than find commonality spreads division; rather than engender compassion fuels hatred; rather than spearhead a movement of common good holds a spear that kills. Or rather, finds others to hold the spears.
Many of the perpetrators are children, boy soldiers who are tortured, brainwashed and forced into raping, torturing, pillaging, killing, and destroying.
Darfur continues to be a genocide not yet relegated to history. How our government can ignore this situation is beyond comprehension.
It reminds me of something I learned about positive vs. negative. One negative comment takes 100 positive reinforcements to erase. Thousands of dead war crime victims, it seems, require tens of thousands of what? petition signers? protesters? other?
It's tough to know and accept that even proof gathered by competent, recognized investigators is not enough to stop war crimes in their tracks.
It makes me wonder - what might it take to turn Canada into a Darfur? Could it be possible that one day a so-called civilized western country could succumb to a despotic leader who fuels fear and hatred against a group of its citizens? Food for thought.
History or political science teachers or instructors in search of a speaker, or those planning events for a related fundraiser, do contact Debbie Bodkin. Her presentation is plain-spoken and raw, but always delivered with sensitivity. Her message is simple but powerful and communicated respectfully.