World

The Corner

Hate and Its Remedy

You have to be careful when using the word “tragedy.” A tragedy is different from an atrocity or crime, right? An earthquake is a tragedy, a genocide is something else.

That said, the brutalization, or “ethnic cleansing,” of the Rohingya people in Burma has an element of tragedy. I have written about this on the homepage, here.

Presiding over Burma, as civilian leader, is one of the heroines of our time: Aung San Suu Kyi. Nobel peace laureate, daughter of the nation, symbol of democracy everywhere. (I say “daughter of the nation” because her father, Aung San, is the country’s independence hero.) Her many admirers around the world are stunned at her callousness toward the horror in western Burma.

Obviously, I detail all this in my piece.

Thor Halvorssen is the founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum. In 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi traveled to America, where OFF was holding a special session in San Francisco. She received the group’s Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent. Incidentally, the late Czech leader nominated Aung San Suu Kyi for her Nobel Peace Prize.

I asked Halvorssen what he thought about this great lady and the Rohingya. He wrote the following:

Ultimately what one sees in her behavior, beyond a lack of integrity, an excess of political calculation, and a ruthless will to extend her time in office, is a tragic lack of understanding of what love is. If she demonstrated her love for the Rohingya she could overpower any local prejudice and any long-running cultural tradition to oppress them.

Love is more powerful than any other force in the universe. It was love that allowed Armando Valladares to survive 22 years in prison and come out of it a formidable man. It was love that allowed Nelson Mandela to suffer 26 years in prison under the brutal apartheid dictatorship. Love would have propelled Aung San Suu Kyi to lead her people away from this massacre and pit them against the killers — the military — as opposed to cover up the slaughter of defenseless women and children. But she chose not risking a lack of popularity over love. She lost herself.

This doesn’t mean she cannot redeem herself. However, she has displayed the behavior of a politician. She has made an alliance with the dictatorship in order to guarantee her political survival.

I once asked a Venezuelan politician who identifies with the opposition why he would accept financing from corrupt cronies of the very government he opposes. He responded as if there were a landmark in the desert that says it is better to drink foul water than to die of thirst. Sadly, this self-intoxicating misery is fallacious. You may not die of thirst but you will definitely die from poisoning, and probably sooner. Valladares, Mandela, Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Havel never drank this poison and they never died of thirst.

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