The Choeung Ek Killing Fields, Cambodia

By Dave Whitney

Sitting in a memorial to the Cambodian genocide, I am bewildered by the current state of beauty that embraces this field that was once a place of inescapable, horrific, violent death for thousands of innocent people. From the chattering birds, butterflies dancing, flowers teasing your sense of smell, trees green and strong, it’s so hard and disturbing to imagine the blood bath that was committed in every corner of this garden.

As I write, I’m watching a woman slice open coconuts with a machete. She will sell them to make a living for her two young daughters that sit quietly beside her. Watching and hearing her cut the coconuts, my mind begins to envision the reality of a time just a couple decades ago when the terror abruptly began. The coconuts currently being chopped, transform into innocent human heads. The milk that explodes out of the coconut, becomes human blood, squirting in all directions and staining forever the memories of everything it splatters upon. Instead of her purple shirt and jeans, the woman is wearing the intimidating black and red costume of the hated Khmer Rouge. The birds chirping and roosters cockadoodling become the cries and screams of women, children, babies perishing daily at this killing field. The soldiers who committed the atrocities and murders aren’t really very different from the coconut woman. Just like her they were trying to survive, just clinging to precious, precious existence.

They both swing their machete in hopes of a better future. They both swing their machete because they were forced into this game of life. This game too often separates us from each other and falsely creates an inferior slave. We can become the slaves, as the Khmer Rouge did to the Cambodian people, to a delusional ideology of some grand better life for all, a manufactured better time for all. A person is defined as having a structure of will, which means that all persons should be respected equally because of the willful capacity they possess. No person should be a slave to anything against their own will, and yet here I am sitting in a killing field where many were turned into slaves, tortured then slaughtered. War plays a key part in creating slaves, as war unjustly violates most people’s wills. This inevitable violation of will that comes with war is why I support and believe in 2020 A Year Without War. No one should have their will violated so violently and destructively as is the way of war. It’s time to realize that all this killing and violence we are immersed in, isn’t necessary for resolving conflict. Join me, along with so many others in this historical opportunity to stand for something great, to be something great. We can and we will do this.

Let’s come together for 2020, unite for 2020. Let’s make it a year without war.