Empathizing with Pakistan

There’s a scene from the movie Hotel Rwanda (2004) where a camera man named Jack has shot horrible footage of the Rwandan genocide that killed 800,000 people in 100 days.  Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of the movie who saves more than 1,200 people from the genocide (in real life), thanks the camera man for his work.

Here’s a transcript of the scene I’m thinking of, from the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) website:

Paul Rusesabagina: I am glad that you have shot this footage and that the world will see it. It is the only way we have a chance that people might intervene.
Jack: Yeah and if no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?
Paul Rusesabagina: How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?
Jack: I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.

The scene is actually on YouTube.  Here’s my first attempt at embedding a video:

You are probably wondering what this has to do with Pakistan, but I notice that the Pakistan story has disappeared from the news in the US, making it harder to empathize with what’s going on there.  It’s prominent on the BBC, and thanks to the BBC, I just saw a powerful two-minute video on the BBC about the flooding.

I can’t embed that video directly, but here’s a link to the story from the BBC.

The video points out that the lack of fresh water and the high heat are a difficult combination for everyone in Pakistan — but particularly for children.  It then occurred to me to check the weather in Sukkur, Pakistan, one of the areas badly hit by the flooding.

I have never seen a weather report that said it felt like 122 degrees.  Combine that with a lack of drinking water and the trauma of being flooded out of your home so that you are living in a tent.  And multiply that by millions of people in that position.

Why is this story not being covered more in the U.S.?  It’s nowhere to be found:


And if it were being covered, what would people’s reaction be?  Is Jack from Hotel Rwanda right?  Would our reaction be “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then we would go on eating our dinners?

Why does the BBC have it so prominently displayed?  (it was even more prominent before the Philippines hijacking story broke)

Is it because Pakistan was part of the British empire?  Who decides what is “news”?  And who decides what is “history”?  These are questions worth pondering.  But I will try to learn more about the situation in Pakistan later today.  I’d like to make a donation.

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About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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