Thursday, April 23, 2009


By now, you have probably heard that actress/activist Mia Farrow will begin a 21-day hunger strike to show her solidarity with the starving people of Darfur. Farrow, who has made a dozen trips to the region in Sudan, is particularly upset now that the President Omar al-Bashir has issued orders for expelling essential international aid agencies. Those agencies were responsible to assist millions of people who have been displaced due to the conflict that has raged since 2003. In that time, it is estimated that about a half million people have died, and upwards of three million have been rendered poverty-stricken and homeless.

In March, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese Omar al-Bashir for the murder, rape, torture and displacement of millions. Predictably, the president did not react well. Thus, the expulsion of humanitarian aid groups like CARE and Doctors Without Borders.

And Mia Farrow? She’s going on a 21-day “fast,” of water only. Twenty-one is the magic number, says she, because her doc told her that more than that could cause irreversible damage to internal organs. Oh, and she doesn’t want to die, she says. She has children. Lots and lots and lots of children. So she’s taking lots of vitamins to get ready for the big fast. So what does she want? What is solidarity, anyway? If solidarity is a communion of purpose, Farrow’s showy mini-starvation is not understandable. The people of Darfur are not voluntarily starving themselves to make a statement. They are being herded like cattle to remote sub-Sahara desert camps and left to perish. Farrow, on the other hand, will presumably be behind closed doors in her apartment that overlooks Central Park. (Come on, you remember the apartment - it was the setting for Woody Allen's 1986 flick, "Hannah and Her Sisters"). And two weeks into her fast, she says she will have blood tests at the doctor’s office to see how she’s holding up.

I have a better idea for Mia. Why not strengthen your body and your resolve, and use your connections, your political savvy and your celebrity to lobby the Obama administration to act harder and faster on behalf of the people of Darfur? Why not have your people call the major TV networks’ people and make some appearances to publicize the current plight and rally support among the American people? Is it so long ago that you can’t remember what Americans did for Ethiopians in the 1980s? Live Aid, etc. And please, I’m not suggesting a big concert will do much for Darfur right now.

I am suggesting that somebody should bring Mia Farrow a ham sandwich and a coke and let’s get on with it. President Obama is currently going the diplomatic route. He has already dispatched special envoy J. Scott Gration to the region to make some efforts to get the rival groups to at least talk to one another. No one is quite sure if Gration can make any headway here, but it’s a start. People in high places are hesitant to use the word genocide as it relates to Darfur, but just as a reminder; Omar al-Bashir reportedly did this before in Southern Sudan, when two million people died of thirst and starvation, and widespread epidemics. President Obama now has an opportunity to build an international coalition whose primary goal would be to end this before it happens again.

Meanwhile, Mia Farrow ‘s heart is probably in the right place, but her methods are odd. She says she would like to build a museum for the people of Darfur. Huh? I’m thinking perhaps a hospital, some shelters, food banks and perhaps an “underground railroad” to get them out, even if it only means to refugee camps in Chad.


Joan Eisenstodt said...

I knew about the fast but not about the musuem. It seems odd .. there are numerous Holocaust museums .. but maybe she wants to incorporate this into those or a new one so it's not FOR the people of Darfur but about their plight?

j. said...

Thank you.

Well said, Paul. I didn't realize al-Bashir was a repeat offender.