I’m still reeling from the documentaries we watched in our pre-departure workshop. Though I participated in the 2009 Challenges to Peacebuilding in Cambodia J-Term, we were removed from outright violence because there was no filmed documentation of the genocide. I’m more comfortable now than I once was with the idea of the victim/perpetrator cycle, but as Ben mentioned in his blog, the brutality we experienced via television from the safety of our classroom in Monterey was so personal. I am not frightened of sorrow nor of anger dictating the way I experience my daily routine, and I anticipate that tears and frustration will punctuate my experience in Sierra Leone. However, seeing this violence requires a new dimension of emotional processing in terms of fear, and I am having a lot of trouble with this.
The documentaries covered a lot of ground, describing the actors, issues, and themes implicated in the war and its aftermath. However, much of the footage came from a civilian who managed to film the violence perpetrated by both the RUF rebels and the ECOMOG forces against both combatants and civilians. I cannot describe the horror I felt watching the slow process of ECOMOG forces approaching an innocent developmentally disabled child that they believed to be a sniper, dragging him to their vehicle and torturing him without mercy. Suddenly I did not want to be in the classroom, I just wanted my Mother, craving one of man’s basic needs of human warmth and security.
In certain moments over the past few days I have been overcome by this feeling of fear as my mind returns to the boy who could not run to his mother. He had to experience the fear and bare the torture. Where was the warmth and security for this boy? How can a person who has undergone this trauma feel that they can rely on security after having experienced such vicious cruelty?
As students of conflict resolution, we are learning that without knowing this violence and without really feeling the pain of those who have lived through the war, its impossible to be effective in the field of conflict resolution. However, while I am comfortable with sadness and anger, I lack confidence when it comes to fear, which has certainly affected my routines in the past few days. I can only imagine what it is like to live in permanent fear on top of the sadness and anger of losing not only limbs and loved ones, but every form of individual and social identity.