Genocide is always closer than we think

This appeared in the Gainesville Sun.

This week, the Gainesville City Commission is set to bring up a resolution affirming its opposition to genocide. There are a few reasons this is important. 

First of all, it provides the city a chance to promote the values of the people who live here. It also provides an opportunity to educate the community about the problem of genocide and other crimes against humanity that are occurring today. 

The United States has a long tradition of this kind of action. During the American Revolution, towns passed similar resolutions boycotting goods made in Britain. The Boston Tea Party is the most famous example of this. Efforts to boycott goods made in Britain helped win the war. 

More recently, actions have been taken by towns and localities to express opposition to apartheid in South Africa, outrage at the genocide in Darfur and to do more to combat climate change. These are all international issues that have been tackled by local communities. This is the pure essence of the “think global, act local” mentality. 

While we think of genocide as something that happened a long time ago, in a place far away, that is just not true. Genocide Watch has issued genocide emergencies, warnings and watches for 16 countries. Moreover, American companies such as Chevron, Apple and Nike are either actively funding or profiting from crimes against humanity.  

Chevron is the biggest corporate investor in Myanmar (Burma). It owns the Yadana gas field and pipeline, which makes billion of dollars for the Myanmar military. That military has committed genocide against the Rohingya and, on Feb. 1, orchestrated a coup. Since then, they have murdered more than 250 peaceful protestors. 

Since 2017, more than 1 million people have been detained in China and put in forced labor camps. These people include Uyghurs, Kazaks, Kyrgyz and Hui minorities. They are kept under constant surveillance and have no freedom. They are responsible for processing 20% of the cotton used by the global apparel industry. 

Nike shoes are made in these forced labor camps. Apple uniforms are made there, too. The region supplies the world with more than just cotton. It also produces sugar, tomatoes, coal and polysilicon. Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola and other American companies lobbied against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act last year. 

Closer to home, Genocide Watch put out a report on the United States earlier this year. Genocide Watch has documented a set list of steps all genocides follow. They report that former President Donald Trump had started all of them but the process was stopped by constraints within the U.S. Constitution, but warns that we are not immune from such horrors. 

They conclude, “The parallels to Nazism should make your blood run cold. Trump has promoted policies that are chillingly similar to Nazi policies. He is supported by neo-Nazis and Congressmen and Senators too cowardly to oppose him … Make no mistake about it. The January 6th invasion of the Capitol was the prelude to a Trump attempted coup d’état. By a 232 to 197 vote to impeach supported by only ten Republican Congresspersons, Trump was stopped. For now. Take Trump’s intended insurrection seriously. It (genocide) can happen here.” 

Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

That is as true today as it was then. 

Gainesville is a diverse and welcoming place. It’s progressive outlook and people make it uniquely situated to lead the country on this important issue. 

Alyson Chadwick is a digital campaign strategist with No Business with Genocide and the International Campaign for the Rohingya. 

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