A Modest Proposal
|by Zoe Sandvig|
Anyone else read Jonathan Swift's satirical pamphlet A Modest Proposal in high school? For me it was just about exhilarating as The Scarlet Letter. Now I'm realizing that every boring reading assignment had a purpose. In his Proposal, Swift criticizes 18th-century Irish nobility for their harsh treatment of the poor, by suggesting that instead of allowing the poor to burden them, they ought to just eat all of the children. Problem solved.
Of course, it was an absurd analogy--an absurd analogy that made an excellent point. But, what if Swift wasn't joking? What if disregard for the poor was truly analogous to killing a nation's children? And, what if this was not a "modest proposal" but a raw reality?
Now, allow me to make a less than perfect jump to a possible example of this graphic reality. Two days ago, Catherine spoke of the shocking betrayal of Tutsi people during the 1994 genocide by the Rwandan church. There was no gathering place known for more mass killings of the Tutsi than church buildings. Some clergy, like the pastor in Immaculee Ilibagiza's account of survival, risked their lives to save the Tutsi in their parish. Many more turned an indifferent cheek. Others ratted out the Tutsi they were pretending to protect.
Antoine Rutayisire, vice president of Rwanda's Unity and Reconciliation Commission, turns the tables on the West's pointing finger. Last year, in an interview with my friend Laura Waters, who is creating a film on reconciliation in Rwanda, Mr. Rutayisire pulled a "Jonathan Swift," although, unlike with Swift, there was no satire involved. He said:
I often tell people that when it comes to social issues, ethnicity, other social issues, the church is always lagging behind. In every country. Far worse even in your countries. . . . someone cornered me about where was the church during the genocide, and I said, right where your church is now . . . allowing babies to be killed.