Are You Joking?

posted by Sumon Ray

Really? Are you joking? Am I in Madam Tussaud’s London museum? I am sorry; I thought I was at the erstwhile killing fields. This is the site where millions of people lost their lives to the heinous crimes of the Khmer Rouge, right? Then, why am I seeing two tourists posing in pictures as if they were at Angkor Wat or the Magic Kingdom?

Question after question was coming to my mind.  What I was looking at was a German tourist taking a picture in front of the skulls of victims that lost their lives in the killing fields. With all the tourist attractions in Cambodia, the killing fields are definitely not the location to have a Kodak moment.

I kept on rewinding what I just saw in my head because I was astonished at what had happened in front of my eyes. Was it just environment of the killing fields? Does it make people do outrageous things? I mean there couldn’t be a plausible reason for taking happy pictures in an environment that automatically brings about despair and tears to one’s eyes.

You didn’t have to be Cambodian or a relative of a person who endured the treachery of the Khmer Rouge to feel the intensity of the whole environment of the killing fields. I cried at the fact that I was standing on the same ground that many innocent people lost their lives. I was easily roaming around the killing fields now, but if this were only a couple of years ago I would probably be running for my life.

The German tourist held up his hand making two peace signs and smiled for his picture that he would possibly put up on a social networking site. That image of him smiling represented such ignorance and made me run away from the situation. My face became drenched in moisture and the mixture of sweat and tears caused a flood on my face. Why was I drowning? I was drowning in tears because I cared. I wondered if the German tourist even cared about what happened only a couple of years ago here in the killing fields.

Even if he did not care, he should have common sense not to take pictures in front of the skulls of dead people. It is similar to posing for a picture with a smile on your face in front of an open casket with one of your dead relatives in it. Now that is messed up.

This whole situation made me think of tourist etiquette. You can’t take pictures with everything. I myself can be a camera freak sometimes, but I decided in advance that I would not take pictures of me posing in the killing fields. I did not want to make the killing fields into an amusement park. The killing field is a space of remembering the dead and a testament to realizing the mistakes of the past. We should take what happened in the killing fields and make sure that it is not repeated again. We shouldn’t photo shop the pictures we take there or take Kodak moment pictures of ourselves there. If you do decide to take pictures, do it with utmost reason to bring a voice to the many voiceless victims of this heinous tragedy.

As I left the killing fields, I noticed the mixture of tears and sweat from my face fall to the ground. I let it fall. They fell in the same way that the tears and sweat fell from the innocent lives of the Khmer Rouge victims.

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