It's easy, as Nicholas Kristof points out, to think and talk about international affairs in abstract terms. Most of us are living comfortable lives in comfortable countries. We have the luxury of being able to afford to think about things that are happening beyond our own borders, even when they're unlikely to affect us directly. We can talk and think about what's happened or what is happening in Bosnia, in Darfur, in Cambodia, in the Sudan. We can think and talk about things we can do to make things better in those places, and sometimes we can carry through with our plans.
It's not as easy to talk about some of what's happening in concrete terms. It's easy to talk about what is happening in various places without overly disturbing our bourgeois happy feelings. It's not as easy to talk - or write - about what's happening to people who live in those places. That's particularly true when what's happening lies far, far outside our comfort zones. In some cases, it's harder than others. Talking about children being killed makes me uncomfortable. Talking about little girls being violently raped is harder. Even thinking about a 7-year-old named Jackie jumping rope in a center for rape victims alongside other girls in the same age group is - yuck. It's easier to talk about people being "killed, or worse".
But playing ostrich isn't going to help. When it comes to atrocities - even atrocities in places we've barely heard of and will never visit - silence is complicity.
Sheril Kirshenbaum and Isis are spearheading a blogosphere drive to try and increase awareness of rape in war-torn areas. They will be donating all the income from their blogs this month to Médecins Sans Frontièress, as will several other bloggers (including me). We'll also be discussing the issue in more detail throughout the month.
If you want to help, there are a few things you can do to help. Get in touch with your elected officials, wherever you are. (A Congressional directory for US readers is here.) A sample letter will be available shortly, and I'll link to it when it's up. I'm honestly not sure if this is a case where international pressure will slow or stop the problem in the short term, but it can't hurt.
If you want to do something that can have an impact, you can donate to Médecins Sans Frontières. They're providing help to rape victims in a number of different countries. If you can't donate yourself - or if you want to increase your impact - check with the blogs that will be donating their income often. The more you click over to Sheril or Isis' blogs, the more money they'll raise.
And if you can think of anything else that will help, let us all know about it.