To look closer or not? Don’t look away – remember. These killing fields happened within my lifetime. If you are being imprisoned or threatened for peacefully protesting about government policy or actions – then your leadership is only steps away from “killing fields”…remember that dictatorships do this. Dictators do not act alone.
Dictatorships come in all “shapes and sizes” so to speak. Dictators do not just belong in any one political view point either. Fascism is not limited to non-democratic societies either.
In one of the killing fields sites in Siem Reap – they have preserved the site differently to Phnom Penh sites – to help people remember it differently. Here it’s not open fields but paved over and covered with pagodas and shrines.
People come to pray and pay respects and to remember to choose peace. Some come to gawk. Regardless, most struggle with this central and very gruesome pagoda filled with skulls and long bones. Why would you put the skulls on display like this? I hear some of you say. My answer is that because it’s no different to “lest we forget” – only presented much more realistically. This screams “don’t forget because if you forget you forget that these people were just like you”. Pretty or just solemn stone monuments lose real meaning sometimes.
Sometimes we need to see that the people who died were real, not just symbols of a forgotten past. These skulls jump out at me as women, men and children, not just a “bunch of skulls” as an American standing by casually referred to them as (a gawker). I did basic forensic anthropology and at a few glances – can basically read the suture lines (where the bones join together as we age on the top of the skull) and compare the supraorbital torus (brow) for rough ideas of age and sex. Where the skulls are flipped around the occipital foramen magnus gives further clues as to whether they are male or female.
The range of ages and mix of sexes make it impossible to ignore that these were not armies, but just everyday people targeted by a fascist government. Stop. Think. Shouldn’t policies support people, not punish them? Do we continue to let a paper war be waged on unemployed, homeless, disabled, single parents, anyone who is struggling? Do our new suicide rates represent the paper war becoming physical? If even by suicide? Homelessness? Despair? Are these not our modern killing fields?