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Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Interview: Jay's Hunger Strike for Darfur
Our senior editor, Rosemary, has had a wonderful opportunity to interview a man by the name of Jay McGinley. He is standing to the North of the White House in President's Park facing the White House. He has been on a hunger strike, and the news media deems this as non-issue. Rosemary does not. So we got a jump on a story before the New York Times. Oh, but then again, she worked for it. It was not handed to her.
There are several questions that were asked, and all of them were answered frankly and honestly-as he sees the issues. What shall be done, in order to preserve some space and keep your interest, is to eliminate some of the reduncacies. Let me first apologize for asking insufficient and out of order questions. Let us go to the interview.
(This interview took place through e-mail and the telephone. My answers shall be in bold, his shall be in regular print.)
Hello, Mr. Jay McGinley. It is nice to 'meet' to you. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Would you like to get started? Yes, thank you.
1. First of all, would you like to tell us why you are on hunger strike for the people of Darfur, Sudan?I reject the notion we have unconsciously embraced. That there needs to be, that there should be, a difference in the way we treat people who live nextdoor to us, and a different standard for those who do not. I am a desciple of Jesus. He was explicit. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others all that you would have them do unto you. As you do unto the least of these, my family, you do unto me. This is in my heart. People in Darfur are my family. For those who do not have faith or have a different faith, it is the Golden Rule.
Ok, so if your family in Darfur is being slaughtered, what do you do? You fight for the solution that all parties involved are calling for: "20,000 to 30,000 UN Peacekeeping Troops on the ground with a Chaper 7 mandate (empowered to use force), to protect and make these people's land safe again for farming and living. And you fight to get your fellow citizens to give a mandate to our administration that they apply all pressure necessary on Sudan's President el Bashir to allow the peacekeepers and aid workers in, unmolested, to do their jobs.
According to Samantha Power's Pulitzer prize winning analysis of the last 100 years of genocide (Problem from Hell), the battle to stop genocide has always been lost on the field of public opinion in the US. We have the power, but we as a citizenry have never raised the will. We have never found the courage to step out of our comfort zone and registered our mandate with our elected officials. So what can you do? You set about to raise the courage among your fellow citizens.
I believe in nonviolent warfare in general, and certainly in the fight to raise courage among "we the people". In all of the important such struggles in this country - Civil Rights, Womens' Suffrage, Anti-Apartheid - a small group of people have stood up with tremendous courage, given an example to millions who then stood up with them with substantial courage to unmistakably state their mandate to the elected officials. I am calling for an all out nonviolent war, or campaign, here in the US to raise the mandate that I know our elected officials want to see. I believe some of us need to pay a personal price. I am leading by example. That is why I am on Hunger strike.
2. How many days have been on the hunger strike?Today is day 75 of the round the clock vigil for Darfur at the White House. Today is Day 24 of the Hunger strike. I intend to go through Day 60 on Hunger Strike. This will put me in extreme harms way. This is where a soldier fighting for his brothers and sisters belongs. But I have a good chance of surviving, and a good soldier is neither reckless or suicidal. I am neither.
3. What do you hope to accomplish? When will you feel you haveachieved your goal?As Gandhi said, "Full effort is full victory." Our Heavenly Father is not going to ask me if I stopped the Genocide. What He will ask me is whether I did everything in my power to try to stop it. This is what I hope to achieve "doing all that I would have them do unto me.
I want to raise awareness so that others will have a similar level of commitment and sacrifice. That would spark hundreds of thousands to register their mandate through nonviolence but unmistakeable personal sacrifice, so the administration would have the mandate they need to push forward.
Specifically I want to see that which will be the catalyst to raise our will - 20 to 500 of us will gather in August at the White House for either a mass hunger strike, or a rolling one. It is possible there may be nonviolent arrests, but these will instill in our brothers and sisters around the country the urgency of the situation and the courage stand up for Darfur.
With this August's action, we can deliver to the September 17 rally planned for NYC by the Save Darfur Coalition 100,000 to 300,000 people that have sufficient courage to undertake whatever remaining nonviolent civil disobedience is necessary so that the 20-30,000 UN Peacekeepers needed by our Darfur family are deployed to Darfor without further delay.
4. Do you believe the American people are aware of the seriousness of the Darfur situation?Yes and no. It is said that the longest journey in the world is from the head to the heart. Millions upon millions of Americans have heard something about this situation, but almost none have allowed the information to travel from their head to their heart.
I am passionately convinced that the cowardly way we have reacted to the information is not what my brothers and sisters in America truly desire. I honestly believe that once they are raised to a courageous response, the joy that will be released in them will constitute their finest hour. It would be a turning point for our country. We would be back in the world's leadership in humanity and human rights that we always have aspired to fulfill.
5. Do you think the press is neglecting this issue?I think everyone in this country is avoiding this issue. I think that the press has ceased to be fighters for morality and truth, and they have become nothing more than entertainers.
They, too, have prevented the journey from the head to the heart. Also, unless some of us can successfully encourage their leadership, they will at some time in their life be ashamed and deeply regretful for the cowardice and inhumanity they are now providing.
6. What is so important about Darfur?The world knows, and has known since the Holocaust, that those suffering Genocide are the least of these. It has been said that the reason for forming the United Nations was to prevent genocide. Shortly after the Holocaust, the word Genocide was coined. Before very long all the countries of the world, except the United States, had ratified the Genocide convention which committed the world to protect such victims. After decades the United States signed the document.
The world has taken no such unanimous action toward any other type of atrocity. By definition, therefore, "victims of Genocide constitute the Least of These."
We are no longer humane beings if we will stand by while 3,000,000 of our brothers and sisters are exterminated. Just because they are native Africans and not the Arab elite who want this country?
I believe that our Father has given Darfur to us as a test as one last opportunity to turn our lives toward His service. He as given us 3,000,000 lives to save. He has made it quite an easy, low risk task for us - a bully government, subject to US and world pressure, and 3 years of visibility to this unfolding horror. We have no excuses not to fight, and fight to win now.
Why is Darfur important? It is reasonable to think that if we do not find the humanity to stop such an easily stopped Genocide, that statement-Never Again- will absolutely be again, and again, and again.
7. Why should the American people care about Darfur, Sudan?The people of Darfur are our family, our brothers and sisters. He is the Father of us all. He is going to ask us what we did for the least of these in His family, our family. What will the defense of our inaction be? We didn't know? We couldn't afford it? They were poor black people? We couldn't stop it? It was too difficult? Some of us would have to skip a few weeks meals on Hunger Strike? A few of us might have to go to jail over night? A few of us will have to put our professional and economic lives at risk? Let's get on with His work.
Before our Father we have no excuses. There are many examples: Love as I have loved, there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your fellow man, the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, do unto others all that you would have them do unto you, and love your brother as yourself. These are just a few.
I will not apologize for my belief in the Lord. I understand there are people who do not. I say to those people, do you want to live in a world of hope or despair? How about a land where everyone that protects is gone when they come for you lastly? It is better to be humane.
8. Who is your inspiration to being doing this? Who is it you admire?Jesus most of all. Gandhi, for whom Jesus was the greatest practitioner of his religion "Selfless Love," Dr. King, and Teresa of Calcutta.
9. How old are you? Why now? What stirred you to become an activist?I'll be fifty-five years old in October of this year. As a youth I was introduced to Jesus and I fell in love. I was born to wealth and as my late teens and early twenties came, I moved out from the loving cacoon formed by my extraordinary biological father. I allowed myself to be seduced by the lies of the "American Dream" of independence, take care of yourself, get comfort, get safety, get sex, get power, get a career, squander it all on your biological family and abandon and exploit all others."
I never became a bad man, but I stopped viewing the teachings of Jesus, the Son of God, as something to be lived literally. About twelve years ago I experienced what was our Father's call: "I did not put you here to make rich people richer, nor to teach your biological family that only they are family. All people are your family. Go and serve them."
Within 4 years I had moved from my computer executive career path and was a Guidance Counselor in arguably the lowest performing, largest elementary school in the country, fighting for the lives and spirits of these doomed kids. That took everything I had physically and materially. A loving non-biologiclly related family that I knew very casually read of my plight on the front of the Philadelphia Inquirer and made me part of their family.
By working in their furniture business, I nursed back to health. Then I became aware of Darfur from a Nicholas Kristof article in the NY Times. That was over two years ago.
Even as a child I saw that the world should have come to a standstill if need be to stop the Holocaust. Now I saw Genocide on my watch. I would do anything and everything in my power, I would put my life on the line to stop the Genocide. I have marched on the DC mall solo 2 summers ago. Hunger striked for Darfur 20 days last summer.
Sent over 20,000 faxes to faith organizations on the east coast, colleges and universities around the country.
10. Do you think the UN is helping, hurting, or remaining neutral on Darfur? Please explain.There is no UN. Actually, there is no US Government in Washington. There is only we the people of the world and the United States. I am trying to be neither cute, trite nor mystical in this response. We the people of the world are the government, whether or not we are in a democracy. This was Gandhi's great genius. If the people exert their will with enough resolution the Government must follow.
The streets of the world are empty of people delivering their unmistakable mandate to their officials to see that 20-30,000 UN peacekeepers be put on the ground in Darfur with a Chapter 7 mandate (ability to use force) NOW.
The UN is not the problem. "We the people" are both the problem, and we are the solution. Now, having said that, China and Russia are problems. They both have preferential relationships regarding Sudanese oil, and they are worried that UN intervention could cause sanctions that would get in the way of their profits. We have to do a better job of convincing them that genocide is unacceptable.
11. How many men, women, and children have been raped, tortured, executed, enslaved, forced to flee their homes to go to refugee camps, and how many people have starved to death for lack of aid? Please seperate those whom have already fled. I believe that number is around 2.5 million. Is that correct?
I would defer to the largest, best funded coalition of activists, Save Darfur coalition . I believe their numbers are 400,000 exterminated, 10,000's raped, 3,000,000 [million] displaced from their destroyed homes. The Janjaweed would burn the children they were not kidnapping for sex-slaves and hard labor, and then through them in the wells to poison village water. They were held in dessert camps where they faced forced starvation. They die at a rate of 2-5000 per week.
The heinous neglect from the world is now so unmistakeable to the el Bashir, he feels completely comfortable to allow his Khartoum regime to now attack aid workers with his Janjaweed Arab militia. Therefore it is forcing the life-support from these people to stay away. This is leading to expected death tolls of 25,000 per week.
12. What are the conditions of the refugee camps? How do you know?I can add little to the unanimous view of Human Rights Watch, Save Darfur Coalition, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Africa Action, Genocide Intervention Fund. Two-five thousand per week die due to murder from the Arab Militia, combined with forced food starvation and starvation.. We saw this in Stalin's Communism, and now we are seeing it again.
When we allow el Bashir drive the aid workers away, the numbers have started to do rise to twenty-five thousand per week begin to starve. Women go out for firewood that is needed. When they do this, the are gang raped. If men go out, the militias murder them. The children have had no school for three years now. They are not free from attacks, either. They are often slaughtered in front of their parents. If not, they are taken as slaves. When are we going to stop the slave trade? I thought it was over, but I was wrong.
13. Who is responsible for this? Directly, and indirectly.Directly, the Arab government by a Coup 17 years ago. Much more importantly , our brothers and sisters of all countries are responsible, because we have absolutely the power to protect them. Before God, we have no excuse and just as humane beings we, we need to all that we can to make this front page news.
14. Is the African Union (AU) able to protect an area the size of France withonly 7000 men?The most conservative estimates are 20,000[-30,000] troops with a Chapter 7 mandate to use force. Sudan Reeves has the most authoritative analysis. Eric Reeves is a Smith College professor dying of cancer. He has mortgaged his house so he can afford to spend what days and months he has left keeping Darfur on the world stage through his authoritative studies and articles.
15. Is the AU allowed to use force against the Janjaweed militia of the Islamic government?The AU has no authority to use force. They are window dressing to enable the neglect of we brothers and sisters around the world.
16. What religion are the Black Darfurians?The 3,000,000 in Southern Sudan that were exterminated by el Bashir were non-Arab Christians. But he is an equal opportunity butcher. In Darfur they are Muslums like him, but the fact that they are non-Arabs makes them fair game.
17. What is your opinion of this new peace deal that only the SLA signed on to?As it stands it is entirely inadequate. If it is not enhanced to better represent the needs of the Darfur people (not just the war lords who are themselves as evil as Bashir) it is a time killer. However it can be enhanced and if so done, and then enforced it will be a benefit.
18. How much area does the leader of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) control?Minni Minnawi, who with his entourage came to meet with me two days ago, represents 4% of the Darfuries, but as much of 80% of the rebel fighting force.
19. How many Armies are in Darfur? How much terrority do they control?The armies control little if any territory, if you mean the so called rebel armies. I think there were three Minnawi's SLA remains separate, and the other 2 have merged. I think the other two may, may more truly represent the masses.The Janjaweed is the only one truly in control of territory all of it.
20. Why did the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD) refuse to sign on to the peace deal?The two that did not sign on had selfish reasons, but the truly selfish leader was Minnawi I fear. It may be that he cut the deal for himself. The others saw that it was profoundly unjust and inadequate for their people. Too little protection. Too little of the country's oil wealth. Too little representation. I hope that Minniwa performs in a way that proves me wrong. He seemed like an honorable man when I met him.
21. Is there any fighting between these Armies?Yes, there is constant fighting for territory and influence, largely so that the "leaders" can have wealth and power when the dust settles. There are no good guys that I can see. Only innocent, totally abandoned victims.
22. Have you had an opportunity to speak to the Black Causes? Have they tried to speak with you? Do they know of your existence and purpose? How?My experience with the Black Cause is limited to 3 that were here in President'ss park participating in a small rally conducted by Africa Action. I approached 2 of the 3 and because I was not a dignitary, someone that could help their selfish interests, only someone that had sacrificed everything for their Darfur brothers and sisters, they almost literally ran away from me. Kind of like you move away from garbage.
23. Do you believe the hatred for President Bush is coloring how the press covers their stories and which ones they cover?Frankly, I feel that there is little independent press left. None in the mainstream seem more than shameless entertainers and puppets of the establishment.. They are entertainment workers with no courage, and they fear Bush' influence on their careers through their corporate owners.I believe that on Darfur Bush is doing as well, or slightly better than any previous President facing Genocide and I feel the press is accurately reflecting this.
24. Do you believe the same hatred is blinding the American Liberals to the point they can no longer see suffering or the seriousness of Darfur?Hatred is not blinding Liberals or Conservatives. Our greed, selfishness and lust for pleasure, comfort and safety for me and mine is what blinds us. Embracing the lie that we are not all brothers and sisters is blinding us. We want to be blind, because this blindness is what allows us to divorce our brothers and sisters around the world, and it protects our ability to work and live only for ourselves. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus died to give us.
We want the log in our eye. That way we don't have to see and serve the least of these. What we gain through this embrace of blindness is the ocean of pleasure, safety, comfort for which we are drowning. That is what we lust for.
25. Is there anything I missed about the situation in Darfur?I think you covered everything.
26. Feel free to add anything I have not asked for which you think is important for the people to know. Please feel free to go on and on and on. I went on an on above. I am extremely fatigued today. After 24 days with no food really hit me for the first time. Sorry I've not done a better job.
There are a few notes I would like to add. In the first place, the number of murdered Darfurians claimed to be at 400,000 is the same number I wrote about in May of 2005 ! Now either I'm claravoyant (I am not) or no one else has died. Neither of these claims are true. I believe we are seeing another Rwanda. Must we wait for the movie to come out before we grieve?
Jay can be reached for comment at JyMcGinley@cs.com.