I wouldn’t call “First They Killed My Father,” by Loung Ung, a beach read—but I would recommend that every single person pick up this book. I bought my copy from a child selling wares outside of the Killing Fields in Cambodia. It tells the tale of a young girl who survived the genocide that happened in the late ‘70s under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
The mountains of human skulls I saw at the memorial, combined with the gruesome images painted by this author, are forever frozen in my mind. Back home it was easier to read news articles about atrocities such as these, then push them aside as soon as I closed the paper. Why? Because it all seemed so very far away. Because it’s hard to digest something so horrible while going about my daily routine. Because I feel powerless to be able to do anything at all to stop an army of monsters. Because I don’t want to believe that humans are capable of maiming, raping and murdering their fellow humans simply because of their ancestry or education or income.
But the thing is, we do have power. We have more power over our lives and the lives of those around us than we realize. After all, just look at the strength Pol Pot wielded. Or Gandhi for that matter. And while we might not be able to single-handedly topple an army or rally a nation to practice nonviolent resistance, we can pick something that we think is worth fighting for and support it. If each one of us just contributed a piece of ourselves to a single cause—whether it’s sponsoring a child in Asia or volunteering at an animal shelter or planting a community garden—people like Pol Pot would never get away with murdering millions of people because everyone would be too busy doing something good.
So when I get home, I vow never to forget. I’m going to pick a cause (I’ll decide what that is when I return and let you know) and dedicate my money (when I start making some again) and my time. Okay, I’m done with my tangent. I just needed to get that off my chest.