Liberal Education 3010
A topics course
Instructor: Dr. Bruce McKay
“This course will consider the problem of genocide from a number of perspectives through a number of theoretical frameworks. We shall ask such questions as: Can we more fully define genocide? Why, in particular, is genocide a problem? Is it a solely modern phenomenon or do other aggressive acts in history constitute genocide? Why is it so difficult to take action when we know that it is occurring? What can we do about it? How can people bring themselves to enact such crimes against fellow humans? What should the role of the arts be in understanding genocide? How can we remember genocide while at the same time reconciling the events of the past with the necessities of the present and future?”
I originally enrolled in this course out of a desire to take a Liberal Education course. Nothing more. The topic piqued my interest and as often my family discussions tend to travel in historical circles, I had been exposed to the history of the Holocaust at a very young age, and thus exposed to what I belive is the very worst of human nature in the form of genocide.
Wanting more out of my education that just the basics, wanting to challenge myself with a topic I am inherently uncomfortable with, and desperately needing real life examples of theory I have been academically exposing myself, “Liberal Education: The problems with genocide” seemed perfect. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
The first day of class, Dr. McKay has us explain why we were all there and what faculty we were coming from. A myriad of explanations, most often a desire to continue in the Liberal Education department, every class member was there to learn and to expose themselves to new ideas.The syllabus looked intense, of course. Genocide cases are hardly a light topic, but it wasn’t until this recent class that I fully understood what I was going to have to battle with to remain present and articulate in this course.
Tonight’s class: watch Hotel Rwanda and discuss.
Tonight’s class: watch Hotel Rwanda and internally struggle to remain calm and clear enough to establish a conversation, to put forth legitimate idea’s and insight and to refrain from emotional outpourings which most likely stem from my white, catholic guilt.
The hardest moment was when after the movie ended and we resumed into our “discussion circle”. Classmates wiping away tears, struggling to remain composed and understanding that although there is no way to truly understand the after effects of such atrocities, we all feel empathy and maybe can all relate to these acts of senseless violence someway.
Seeing violence in my home as a child and growing up knowing, understanding completely, that human beings are sometimes the very worst thing to encounter I still cannot comprehend the act of ethnic cleansing. I can still not understand violence in cold blood. For many reasons, I hope to never be able to truly understand it. I grew up in Canada, in southern Alberta, as a white intelligent and more often than not, middle class female. I have seen and experienced misogyny and classism, I have experienced poverty, and have felt the cold stare of not being good enough; but I have never felt as if my life was in danger because of my heritage. My nationality is Canadian, my background is western European.
We, we meaning my general society, my peers, and my mentors, are so fortunate to live in this country and as often as we are reminded it is just as soon forgotten. The atrocities committed on our own native land are terrible and they are an act of ethnic division in themselves.
This class will likely be the most intense academic experience I will have at the University of Lethbridge. I very much hope it forces me to grow further, causes me to think deeper and wider, and affords me the opportunity to learn from my peers to understand their experiences and their perspectives on hate and violence. Rwanda is very far away from Lethbridge, but Lethbridge is not exempt from its own form of ethnic warfare.
I most hope to learn how those exposed to and victims of genocide preserved hope and continued to see the beauty of our world.
I hope to become a better person.