I was on a plane on Saturday going from Los Angles to Miami. Although my foster son from South Sudan was not sitting with me, I decided to take an emotional leap and watch the movie, "The Good Lie," about the war in South Sudan. I had been invited to a pre-screening in Washington, D.C., but was not in town that day and could not attend. I rationalized that it would be too upsetting, and similar to what we used to call "a busman's holiday." In other words, why see a move about something that is so familiar and a reflection of what you already do? But with four hours on a plane, and no Internet, I put on the earphones and watched it.
Everything was so very familiar. The stories we hear over and over again from people coming from what is now Sudan to South Sudan. These people were taken into slavery after they watched people killed in their villages, and their livelihoods and cows were taken from them. People and cows were stolen as war booty.
This week, I will be visiting with people who have stories similar to those shown in the movie. They won't be the exact same stories that are told in the movie, "The Good Lie," but stories of war and survival. Last January, 10 men from South Sudan came to St. George's University in Grenada to study pre-med. All of them came from war-torn South Sudan. The people depicted in "The Good Lie" came to the United States as lost boys and lost girls. There were about 2,500 lost boys and 75 lost girls. One of the students at St. George's is a lost girl. Her story is just like the story told in "The Good Lie." She came to St. George's from the United States but is studying computer science so she can put her skills to work.
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I don't want to give the whole story away, as the movie is worth seeing. It is a story of faith and hope. The South Sudanese believe in the Bible and have integrated their beliefs and their culture in many communities and churches in the United States. It has been their faith that has sustained them.
Sometimes, it is easy to forget what they have been through and how much trauma each person has sustained in the wars they've endured. This kind of trauma has lasting effects, and the story needs to be told. We can't become so busy in our daily lives that we stop reaching out to those who need help. This week is also the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. On the 60th anniversary, more than 1,000 survivors came to the commemoration. This time there will be approximately 300. This will be the last major commemoration where survivors will be there. Now the camp must be less of a memorial and begin to tell the story for future generations.
Movies can help us see another perspective if we can't get to Poland or South Sudan. "Night Will Fall" is a new HBO documentary that "uncovers the untold story behind Alfred Hitchcock's suppressed 1945 documentary of German war atrocities based on the footage of the concentration camps shot by British and Soviet liberators." It is produced by Sally Angel and Brett Ratner (only related to me in spirit not genetics). As a documentary, it has eyewitness testimony with "unflinching, restored, rarely seen archival footage left behind for decades in London's Imperial War Museum."
The United States brought refugees from the Holocaust and from South Sudan. More refugees were brought from World War II, and they have had success as Americans. Fewer were brought to the U.S. from South Sudan. Either because there were fewer of them or because this was a much more foreign culture, it has been a tougher adjustment.
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Both groups have been severely traumatized. They've needed each other. At the end of "The Good Lie," there is an African proverb: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." Both movies, "Night Will Fall" and "The Good Lie," underscore that wisdom.
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