The Iris Chang Memorial Essay Contest ended recently just as the film on NANKING came out in New York City. Here is one teacher's response. It seeeks to link how memories are narrated in Kuwait to how they are linke to the rest of Asia today. See other essays at: http://www.irischangmemorialfund.net/Essay_contest_2007/Essays_29_Sept/Essay_Selections_21.htmlRemembering:FIGHTING COLLUSIONS OF SILENCE! BREAK THE SILENCE! One Educator's Approach to Memory in Line with Iris Chiang's
By Kevin Anthony Stoda
Many of us our called to wander the globe and wonder at the good, the unknown, or be witness to evils and changes while rediscovering history on this earth. Many of us are also inspired to educate others.
Some of us have a camera's eye for detail. Some of us feel a sense of loss at inappropriate silence. Some of us shout our outrage in the midst of silence-or at least support those who do stand up and are speaking for those who cannot any longer speak.
In my life I am blessed to be able to do all these things. I was blessed to be able to make journeys in my days on this earth to Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dachau-and other places of memory and witness. I plan to do so until I die, and I invite you to join me-for this is the millennium for us to really get to know one another!
Let's dream big! Let this be the century when governments forget to worry about image and stop fearing shame and admit their errors, building a healthier new age of more mature and knowledgeable citizenry for this planet-a planet already wrought with too many wars and civil wars in the very first decade of this new millennium.
MEMORIAL MUSEUM KUWAIT 2007
Although I have already been living in Kuwait for over 3 ½ years, I recently visited for the Memorial Museum: Kuwait House of National Works. It is located not far from the old National Assembly building that looms as a large abandoned monument to the 1990 invasion of the country.
As in continental China these days, new structures are going up extremely quickly in Kuwait. So, it is surprising that the government has chosen to retain such a huge piece of property on Arab Gulf Road, one of the higher demand areas for construction and water front businesses in all of the country. As one looks around and marvels at the many tall cranes and high rise construction projects in Kuwait today, one should somberly recall that only 16 to 17 years earlier the invading Iraqi occupation forces used to hang Kuwait opponents and rebels from those same types of cranes.As I write this essay, I ponder what museums, there are to memory of war and Massacre in Nanking. I look on line and see that there are such places of memory, and I hope they are not so hidden and out of the way as this memorial museum in Kuwait is.
Less than a mile away from the dilapidated Assembly structure and hidden away in a side street is where the Memorial Museum in Kuwait is located. Outside the building are a few pieces of captured Iraqi military equipment. In the garden is a sculpture of an aerial bomb hitting a small structure. On the blackened projectile is written "Saddam".
As one enters the museum, the first rooms are dedicated to works of national heroes and to the life of early Kuwait, i.e. an era long before oil-an era of silk road trading, and pearling or fishing ships. It is a simpler time where wars of mass-execution were unknown.
The Kuwaiti residents of that era were also much poorer. Some had to indenture themselves, their children, and their grandchildren as servants just to get by. Alas, as is typical of national museums around the globe, the quasi-slavery of the 18th and 19th century Kuwaiti world is not referred to. (This is, of course not the museum's mission, but silences about history are not unknown throughout Kuwait either.)
Among the various photos of 1990-1991 occupied Kuwait are images of disappeared victims of the occupation of Kuwait. Further, one sees evidence of how the occupiers tried to erase the memory of Kuwait. Streets and townships were renamed after Saddam Hussein or Iraqi heroes.
The message is clear. Upon occupying the territory in August 1990, the Iraqis sought to erase memories of Kuwaiti history and memory as soon as soon as possible. Kuwaiti flags along with photos of the nation's leaders were banned from public display. Police reports showed that children--as young as six years old--were arrested for carrying such items in the street.
On the walls are photos of women who died in hospitals of Kuwait in 1990. Iraqi government forces had systematically taken medicine and medical equipment from Kuwaiti hospitals as fast as possible-sending the medical supplies to Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. The narration under the photos indicates that these women died because they had been denied medicine and medical treatment. The implication is that a sort of genocide was being practiced in Kuwait by its neighboring occupier.