Last month on our trip, we spent over half our time in Cambodia. Once there, we resolved to learn what had actually happened with the Khmer Rouge. We knew it would be grim, but it seemed irresponsible and disrespectful to just sort of know that some kind of genocide had happened.
So we bought and read a few history books. We went to the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh to pay our respects. We hired a private guide. She was in her early 40s, a survivor of the regime. She broke down in tears by the end of our tour.
Here's an awkward situation:
"I'm so sorry. I see that I should leave you alone. ...Should I pay you now?"
Here's what feels tacky:
Handing four dollars to a woman who is sobbing over the death of her father, brother, and 1/4 of her country.
Okay, here's the point:
that was horrible.
Learning about the regime. Seeing its immediate effects. Standing in the rooms, walking past the graves, seeing the bones. Seeing the victims. Their faces in their mugshots after they'd been hauled in and they knew it was just a matter of how much pain before they died.
It was horrible.
Here is my point:
I don't know how to deal with this.
The play I'm in is set against the Lebanese civil war, and we're doing a lot of research on it. One actor brought in this image:
No one reacted very strongly. A girl next to me said she loved his pants.
I wanted to puke, the violence and the reality of it upset me so much. I hate looking at it.
I do think that two months ago I would have known, in-my-brain known that it was real, but I still would have processed it as a scene from a movie.
The artistic director of this theater company I'm working with spent time working in refugee camps in the Middle East. I know I could never stop any of the suffering that's out there, but at least I could push back against it somehow.
or am I just trying to figure out how to deal with this in my brain?