Long-suffering readers of this blog will already know my obsession with the CBS drama “Madam Secretary.” It tackles tough political issues with a brilliant woman in the US Secretary of State role. Now they’ve outdone themselves. If you missed it Sunday March 25, catch it online: https://www.cbs.com/shows/madam-secretary/video/4iyOQfZj9A_U0JQ7EcX9_jdBrGG5XBMM/madam-secretary-the-unnamed.
The genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar may be little known, despite the best efforts of Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times and Kevin Frayer’s dramatic photo essay in Time Magazine 11/27/17. My blog has already detailed the atrocities, and the obscene non-intervention of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the country, who ironically received the Nobel prize for her opposition to dictators. Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh. Those who remain are treated atrociously by the Burmese military, callously killed and raped, and denied the most basic medical care, food, and shelter. The news media are denied access because the Burmese have a lot to hide.
I was impressed to see this horror surface in mainstream t.v., when on “Madam Secretary,” the US is poised to award the Medal of Freedom to Myanmar’s charismatic leader, fictionalized as a male, but with the same background as the current president. The Secretary of State shows him clear surveillance photos of the villages burned and the mass exodus of peoples. Most poignantly, she reveals pictures drawn by children of their parents being killed and their homes being torched. The leader protests that the issue is complex, that the US has its own refugee problems, quickly refuted by Secretary McCord: the Muslims have lived there for centuries. He argues too that a few Muslim militants attacked security forces, but she counters that the military reaction is wildly disproportionate.
How this genocide has been allowed to continue this long is a good question to raise with Congress, which supported the Burmese military with US tax dollars. “There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” said M.L. King Jr., and his words echo dramatically in the inertia of US non-response. We’ve come to a sad state when the t.v. industry raises the moral conscience of the nation more powerfully than its leaders, but let’s be grateful wherever that clear voice sounds.