It seems like it just keeps getting worse. Just in the past week we’ve heard news that the Great Barrier Reef is in a terminal stage of its existence, a doctor has been beaten senselessly because he would not give up the seat he paid for, a shooting has occurred in a San Bernardino elementary school and sarin gas has been deployed against the people of Syria.
And when I thought the atrocities were over, new and horrifying allegations have arisen that the Chechen Republic has rounded up 100 gay men and interned them in concentration camps. Not only have they been detained, but also allegedly tortured and in some instances murdered. Disturbingly, even if these claims turned out to be false, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied that these events have happened because, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” meaning that the government believes (or wants to believe) that homosexuality does not exist in their perfect, glorious republic. The statement is beyond chilling; it is reminiscent of statements given by governments that committed genocides in the past.
As someone whose family lived in Germany during Hitler’s reign, news like this is dismaying to say the absolute least. I remember learning in school about the horrors of the Holocaust, and always there was a narrative that the world would never let this happen again. But it does. It happens all the time. It happened in Cambodia, it happened Rwanda, it happened in Bosnia. It still happens today; there are concentration camps in North Korea right now to which the regime sends anyone who speaks up against the police state.
And now it may be happening in Chechnya. 100 men may not seem like that many compared to the thousands to millions killed in other pogroms, but it always starts small, and any number is too many. Because if left unchecked, this could become another massacre led by another idiot in a military outfit and the world can feel guilty because it meant well but did nothing to intervene.
I don’t know how to address this alleged human rights violation in Chechnya, any more than I did with the use of chemical weapons in Syria. What I will say is this: don’t stop feeling outraged. I know how nauseating it is to keep up with the news, especially with the polarizing climate today. It would be so easy to just turn off your computer, put down the newspaper and focus on our own lives and days. But we can’t do that, because to be silent is to be complicit. You should be feeling disgust, sadness and rage after reading the news, that means you’re able to empathize. And while it can be unbelievably frustrating to feel so powerless when reading about these atrocities, it’s better than feeling apathetic.
Because that is truly a risk we run in the information age. With the internet, it takes only a few clicks to come across something horrendous, and that can mean we get used to it. In the age of 24/7 news, we are often given little time to process what we just heard. But if we stop feeling anger, if we turn our backs on these stories because they make us feel bad, we’ve given up and left these people to die and those abuses will be as good as forgotten I don’t know how to solve the issues we face today (I doubt many people do), but that does not give us license to stop caring.
Soren Malpass is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorenity Now appears alternating Thursdays this semester.