Warning: Completely serious post ahead with nothing to do with knitting or Webster. I'll post about knitting and Webster in a different post so those who don't want to read about Rwanda can skip this one!
Today I want to write about the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. Vancouver is quite near here, and so I think that made it especially exciting to watch, knowing that all the excitement and amazing international cooperation was happening less than an hour away.
I loved the part at the very, very beginning where the snowboarder rode in and jumped through the Olympic Rings. I also love watching the different countries and feeling that maybe it is possible to get along, about some things.
But by far, the best part of the evening came toward the end; when the Olympic flag was brought into the stadium, bore by distinguished Canadians. These were people like Donald Sutherland (I didn’t realize he was Canadian), or others that either played to peoples’ heartstrings or popular culture.
And then, there was one man who wasn’t smiling. And as soon as I saw him, I gasped and jumped to my feet. The Canadians did an amazing thing when they included Lt. General Roméo Dallaire in the procession.
Lt. Gen. Dallaire was the UN chief of mission in Rwanada. He was the man in charge of the “peacekeeping” force that had to stand by and watch the genocide unfold, pleading all the while for the international community to do something and getting turned down by the UN and the US at every turn. When someone finally did do something, the French in Operation Turquoise, it was the genocidaires that were aided, not those being raped and massacred.
If you’re up for it, I highly recommend his book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The failure of Humanity in Rwanda. It’s quite a long book, and if you’re (like me), prone to nightmares… make sure you are prepared. His story is haunting and discouraging, and does not have a happy ending.
Until perhaps last night.
The inclusion of Lt. Gen Dallaire in the opening ceremony was, I feel, notable in a few different ways.
Firstly, it was an incredibly profound way to recognize a man who tried so hard and did so much, but yet saw so little results.
Dallaire has struggled since his return from Rwanda, understandably, with PTSD and related ailments. Some of these struggles have been very public and very embarrassing to him and his family. Recognizing and embracing this man is a powerful tribute to other veterans around the world who may also be struggling with similar issues. It shows that Canada is not ashamed of this man, despite the fact that he is experiencing PTSD. It shows that Canada is, in fact, proud of this man and what he did. PTSD or no. It was a powerful statement to veterans about acceptance and love.
Finally, it shows that Rwanda, at least in Canada, has not been forgotten, it shows that the courageous nature of those that give all of themselves to stop genocides are treasured and valued in the world. That atrocities are not tolerated and there are amazing and truly awesome people in the world that will give anything and everything they can to stop awful things from happening.
Honoring this man by including him as a flag bearer showed Canada honoring all of these things- and was, for me, the best part of the ceremony.