Monday, February 14, 2011

Monument to Horror

  • Cambodia Blog 15

Monument to Horror
February 12th, 2011

Today we finally made the pilgrimage to the Killing Fields -- a few acres of grass and trees made famous by the blood that has soaked the dust when the Khmer Rouge used it as a site to massacre thousands of civilian prisoners. It was a strange experience, something between horror at the indescribable atrocity and anger at the obvious exploitation of the torment the dead went though, all held together by complete incomprehension. When you look at 17 story stack of bones, how do you understand the life lost in each empty skull? You cannot. All there is is darkness.

The Cambodian government obviously used the site to toot their own horn about how hard they are working to bring the Khmer Rouge leaders to justice, sickening, considering Former Khmer Rouge leaders are still in government today. So I cannot really write a normal blog about that place. The multiplicity of emotions that ran through me made my impression of it very fragmented, but here are the most vivid of the images that stayed with me:

  • Incomprehensible contrasts. The beauty of the trees and the lake and birdsong as we walk over scraps of clothing left from the dead. The utter silence of tourists in the exhibitions and the laughter and joking of young Khmer people as they stroll through the graves. 
  • Dirty bones and wilted flowers that visitors have piled on top boxes of exhibitions by the graves.
  • The story of the man who found the ‘killing tree’ still covered with blood and brains from where children’s heads were bashed against it. 
  • The absurdity of the chickens scratching in the pits left by mass graves, a strange mockery of the farms surrounding the site. 
  • Momentary shock when, on the way home, I see a shirt the same color as a child’s shorts left in a pile of clothes of the dead. 

The temple stacked with bones. 

Half a skull left on top of an exhibit by a visitor. 

The gorgeous Cambodian countryside surrounding the killing fields. 

1 comment:

  1. Anna, your experience there was similar to mine when I visited Auschwitz. The very ground tries to pull our souls from our bodies. It is important that you had the opportunity to see and to share with us and to tell ~ so that somehow we prevent such horror from every happening again. Blessings.