Research Proposal: Lost Boys of Sudan They Poured Fire on US From the Sky

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Lost Boys of Sudan, They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky

The largest country in Africa is also hosting one of the most frightening civil wars in the history of humanity. Genocide, holocaust and terrorism have joined hands to plague a country whose population is fighting over religious, ethnic and economic issues. The most impressive to the western eye is the image of starving children from places in Africa where internal conflicts keep their countries from the way to development.

A different image of those starving children is provided in the book They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan. Children who witnessed the death of their parents, relatives and friends and the destruction of their villages, children who were forced to wonder "barefoot without food or water, they crossed a thousand miles of lion and crocodile country, eating mud to stave off thirst and starvation... Wandering for years, half of them died before the others at last found sanctuary in a Kenyan refugee camp" (Deng, Deng, Ajak, Bernstein, xix) are telling their story to the world, after having arrived in the land of freedom and equal opportunities, in the land of the "American dream," the United States. Their stories are gathered together and completed by a woman who was touched by their fate and who was humble enough to learn something from them, in spite of the huge differences between the world she grew up in and the Sudanese village the boys were raised. Judy Bernstein confesses in the introduction of the book how they were nothing like she imagined boys who just went through hell would be. Regardless of the degree of civilization of the society one comes from, one is not spared of the prejudices and biases people all around the world tend to build when it comes to an unknown culture. They were no savages, they knew how to use a fork, a knife and a napkin, they were not eager to buy jeans and their English was very good. At a first glance, they were no different then some young men who were fresh out of high school. The real differences were situated at a deeper level. The first major difference resided in their grasp and that of what the western world understands by government and his role in someone's life. After having met the boys, Bernstein is trying to explain them why they had to buckle up. She is immediately thinking she was presenting the image of a state police who would send its acolytes to fine them if they didn't. Going one level deeper, thinking about what those boys must have lived because the government of their country was concerned with anything else but their safety, one can sense the dramatic gap between the two worlds.

A country ruled by a democratic regime has a government chosen by the people, representing the interests of the people. The western world sees in the government as the authority that manages the state's affairs and arbitrates them. According to Milton Freedman, the society people should aspire today for is "a society that takes freedom of the individual, or more realistically the family, as its ultimate objective, and seeks to further this objective by relying primarily on voluntary exchange among individuals for the organization of economic activity. In such a free private enterprise exchange economy, government's primary role is to preserve the rules of the game by enforcing contracts, preventing coercion, and keeping markets free" (Friedman). When the "lost boys" of Sudan first came to the U.S. they were as far away from such a concept as possible.

The first story from chapter one, written by Benson, is up to some point, the universal story of childhood. Benson enjoyed playing with other children, loved his family and the warmth and security feeling he had when he crawled in his mothers arms, he loved his father and looked up to him. There are cultural and civilization differences, but that does not make his story strange to the rest of the world. Only the climax will through a different light on his child life, revealing the initiation ritual of the circumcision he remembered all his life as the most frightening experience of his life. The hands of the parents and their friends who immobilized him to perform a traditional ritual made the kindergarten aged child feel more pain than anything else he experienced after that.

The stories introducing in the world of the villages Dinka people lived in do not show any sign of a government authority. Children do not seem to be aware there is any other authority beside that of their parents, elder brothers and the rest of the adults in their village.

But, a sign of what a citizen of the western world might consider a show of civilization is shown when the boys' stories mention education. The thought someone living in a family of "pastoralists and subsistence farmers"(Deng, Deng, Ajak, Bernstein, 3), sleeping "in small mudded huts"(idem,4), with no schools nearby, getting a college degree and becoming a lawyer, is difficult to grasp for the usual westerner. Alepho is writing about his "big half brother"(idem, 12) who "was at the University in Wau, a five day walk from Juol, our village." First, the distance measured in walking distance makes one think about the means they had to get to school in the first place. Second, it is hard to believe that their families' earnings were enough for them to afford paying for their children to live the village and move into the city while studying. Despite all that, there were young people going to school there. The role of education was conceived just as it is in any other part of the world. Only, developed countries have public schools and school attendance is compulsory up to a certain level. Children in the U.S., for example do not walk to school if that happens to be within a few days distance from their homes.

Playing, working, spending time with their mother and father, children in the Juol village are learning some lessons about the value and the frailty of life, friendship, human nature, the meaning of responsibility, the importance of education and of hardworking. The children of the Dinka people are taught about the importance of tradition and they are expected to do things together in order to learn the value of uniting forces. So far, their values are not different than the values in the developed world.

Benson is writing about the role history plaid in his life and how he and the rest of his playmates came to better understand the world around them though the stories of the past told by the elders of the village. His explanation about the conflict between the Arabs coming for trade from the north, were trying to convert the tribes from the south is quite simple: "they resisted the new religion because Islam was complicated and as cattle keepers we didn't have time to be meditating with the Qu'ran five times a day" (Deng, Deng, Ajak, Bernstein, 24). The reasons behind the government's intentions to convert the tribes from the south to the religion of the northern people are also simple and as old as the human race: the southern lands were the richest in the whole present Sudan and the people from the north wanted a share of them. The real differentiation between the Dika tribe and the government of Sudan is emphasized when Benson writes about the adoption of the Sharia as the state law. The government was a strange organism that not only did not protect the interests of the people equally, but acted on behalf of a portion of the country, harming the other part. The government was the intruder who imposed a strange law on a part of his people, only making them angry.

Before starting to write about the stories of war, the boys are also able to tell stories about love. Even if it sounds romantic and although slightly improbable, the love story of Alepho's cousin, Deng and his Muslim wife, Asunta is the story of love that overcomes evil. It is about people's need for compassion and happy endings.

The gender roles in the boy's stories are easy to comprehend. The women took care of their houses and children, cooked their meals, mainly doing work around the house: "each family member had family chores to do as best as they could. The girls pounded the grains and only left the house to fetch water of firewood. We boys never stayed home...my two older brothers led the cows to good pasture and water and I took the goats, sheep and calves to graze" (Deng, Deng, Ajak, Bernstein, 4). The importance of women is shown in different ways in the boys' stories. Benson's story reveals a strong attachment to his mother and feelings of pride he felt for her being one… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Lost Boys of Sudan They Poured Fire on US From the Sky.  (2008, November 5).  Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lost-boys-sudan-poured-fire-sky/20345

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"Lost Boys of Sudan They Poured Fire on US From the Sky."  Essaytown.com.  November 5, 2008.  Accessed May 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lost-boys-sudan-poured-fire-sky/20345.