Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | January 6, 2010

Hotel Rwanda and Our ACW III

When humans act like the animals we are.


Saw ‘Hotel Rwanda’ tonight.  Superb acting by Don Cheadle.  I wish he would do 3 movies a year – or does he and I’m clueless?  I know I was slow on the uptake on seeing this movie.  I knew the story and thought it would be depressing until I saw end-of-the-decade reviews.  

The thought of genocide is overwhelming.  The realization that it has happened many times during my life and I did nothing,except live my life, is disturbing.  It brings me back to the same mental wrestling with the Vietnam War.   Then came the right and wrong of decisions – drug busts, discipline, AWOLs in the Army.   I came to a resolution.   What made sense – for personal resolution then – makes sense again – but remains troubling for all the tragedy of human suffering – especially children.  

I consider what is happening and realize that it is beyond my control.  I am not in charge.  If I were, I know what I would do.  Just, as I know what I would do today – at any level of power from POTUS to American citizen.  But, I’m not POTUS.  Or anyone advising him.  Or walking across the world stage.  Or, making decisions beyond my own world.  Ah.  That’s the point.  

I can influence only to the reach of my arm.  I couldn’t fix what was what in Vietnam, but volunteered to lead a platoon to do the best I could until I would be killed or wounded – which was the expectation for infantry lieutenants.  When the war was called off due to lack of interest on our side during Winter Ranger, then I applied the same logic to the Army I served in.  I could only enforce integrity, discipline, no drugs, more PT, better training, etc. in the unit I was in charge.   I could make my platoons and company in the 82nd Airborne what I thought they should be.  But, that was it.  I couldn’t control what was beyond my control.  

Fast forward 35 years.  I know what I would do as POTUS.  But, I’m not POTUS.  I see where we are in this 3rd American Civl War – ACW III and WW IV against Islamists.  But, I control only my vote and my blog.  Which is what Don Cheadle portrayed in the movie.  A man did what he could where he was.  Millions died, but one man saved about 1,200 people.   

Two readers, near peers in age, Dry Viking and Citizen Tom commented on my decade by decade review of my new years.  They had much the same sense – and emphasized in their comments how the distance between Right v Left – and apply any labels you like to the sides – split by the Vietnam War has grown and grown.  So much so, that too many angry folks on both sides talk about secession and revolution when they lose a political fight.  That is not good.  

The murderous outrages between Hutu and Tutsi are not unique to Rwanda.  Or Africa.  Or, 1994.   

The bloodiest war in our history was ACW II (1861-1865).  ACW I (1775-1783) had bitter guerilla war in Georgia, South Carolina and upstate New York.  Ugly fighting followed by the mass movement – escape – of the loyalist losers at the end of the war.  James Davidson Hunter’s book , Before the Shooting Starts, outlined the conflicts in our ACW III back in 1990.  No shooting has started – Thank You, Lord – here.   Yet.   

I wonder if Dry Viking and Citizen Tom feel as I do – wishing to be in charge to stop the nonsense with a spoken word.  And, yet, knowing we are only in charge to the reach of our arms, having the urge to participate instead of retiring from life.   Stay involved, with our short reach, in preseving our Republic to save our Commonwealth, Country and Civilization.   Be involved to fight for our freedom to practice our Christian faith – and speak it, too.   

There have been too many Hotel Rwandas in our lifetimes.   We need to protect and preserve – and push into the future – the best of the past – for all that our individual arms can reach.   

So help us, G-d.



  1. Sometimes I wish I were in charge, as I know what I would do, but on the other hand I would probably muck it up somehow. I do so often in so many things despite my best intentions, which is why I too, need a Savior.

    Of late I have been reading a lot of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is very fitting as he addresses the very issues you are contending with and those that we Christians need to contend with at this time. I think it important for all of us right now to study about Bonhoeffer, particularly how he lived during the 1930s when Hitler and the National Socialists came to power. He speaks directly to our role as Christians in such an environment and the role of the community of believers. We cannot be passive, but also see God’s hand in many things. Bonhoeffer has keen insight into this.
    I recommend that you look at him and the role of the Confessing Church in the 1930s. You may find some of the answers you are looking for.

    I am also reminded of the words of that great wizard, Gadalf the Grey who responding to Frodo’s complaint as to living in such difficult times: “It is not to us to choose the times in which we live, it is to us to choose how to use the time we are given.”

  2. Dry Viking — So many books — so little time, but I keep your suggestion in mind. I have read Tolkein’s books several times. Perhaps we share the same taste in books.

    JAB — I shared your frustration. My pastor deals with it with this statement: “God is God, and I am not.”

    We have a lot of Liberals in this country who make a big stink about the government doing something every time they hear about a genocide. I guess they like drawing attention to themselves, but they seem to do precious little. And if we actually do send in our troops, when it our own national interest to prevent genocide, the same fools complain. It seems they only want to do something when doing something is cheap and risk free.

    When I think of myself, I am reminded of this passage from the Bible.

    Luke 12:13-21 (Today’s New International Version)

    The Parable of the Rich Fool

    Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
    Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

    And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

    “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

    “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

    “This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

    As a middle class American, I am to most of the world rich. I just hope that at the end of my life Jesus does not call me a rich fool.

  3. DV: Thanks for thoughtful comments.

    I’m not searching. I got the answers. I’m just not satisfied with it. And I need to get over that.

    The Bonhoeffer reading is a good recommendation. It ties directly to the Manhattan Declaration.

    American Christians should consider where to draw a line in the sand – soon. The failure since 1962 to do so – well enough, widely enough, etc – has caused great harm and suffering throughout our society. And, now places our Republic, our Civilization and the open expression of our faith in mortal peril.

    As to what you and I do with our time remaining. We ‘ain’t’ dead yet.

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