Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Worldwide Wednesdays

Breaking News: Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest!

Now I will give you a moment to clean yourselves up if you have just spit your beverage all over white table cloth in disbelief, or perhaps you dropped a platter of food you might have been carrying, shattered glass dispersed across your carpet, now embedded in its fibers. Switching gears for a moment, if glass embedded in your carpet fibers or a red wine stain on your table cloth is your biggest concern right now, you have it way easier than Aung San Suu Kyi.

So I’m assuming most of you sensed the sarcasm in my tone, because if you have been following Aung San Suu Kyi’s case, Burma’s Supreme Court decision on February 26 to extend her house arrest comes as no surprise. Burma--or Myanmar if you want to be politically correct--is an odd case to put it lightly in that it is a country with 2,100 political prisoners according to the UN and yet, ask a person on the street what they think about Burma and they’ll say, “where’s that?”

Burma is not a hot media issue. There have been no protests in the last few years (in 2007, there were the massive protests led by monks, which resulted in a violent crackdown from the junta) and so not much “exciting” footage for CNN to show. Maybe if Bill O'Reilly showed an interest at least, we’d be invading the country and executing its leaders faster than you can say, “weapons of mass destruction.”

But why is there so little interest in Burma? Does the world not care about 2,100 political prisoners, most of whom are in prison simply for peaceful protests? Does the world not care that the country’s democratically elected leader and Nobel laureate has been under house arrest for about 13 of the past 18 years?

There could be a number of cynical reasons I could put out there, one of which is that the West has no vested interest in intervening in Burma...ahem...Iraq...But I don’t know how helpful that would be to the dialogue on this issue. My main concern is that this news of extending the house arrest of a democratically elected leader is not news. It is filed on the last few pages on the front section, maybe in between two or three stories about Obama and health care, or Obama and his high cholesterol -- you get the idea. I have attached a BBC profile of Aung San Suu Kyi just to demonstrate how amazing her story is. But so few people know about this. Or those who do most likely see it as a lost cause, something that is expected and can’t be changed.

What needs to happen in Burma for people to take notice? Do they need an earthquake? Or maybe we need George Clooney to mention it on the red carpet at the Oscar’s this week...that is, after he tells us who he’s wearing. Do we need some violent crackdown by the junta? People starving slowly, or children with no access to education or healthcare does not make a very effective eight-second clip when Peter Mansbridge does the world news headlines in between “post-Olympics depression” features. WAIT! The Olympics! That’s it! China had never received so much criticism about its human rights record until Beijing hosted the summer Olympics in 2008. I think I would like to see the junta’s leaders do the skeleton in 2020. That would put Burma on the map, and make it headline-worthy.

So read up on her. Or read up on any activist that you think is being ignored and make people aware. Or just spend the rest of the week in Olympics-withdrawal...and then do something about it.


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