Friday, December 08, 2006

Conflict Conscious

Today Leonardo DiCaprio's new movie "Blood Diamond" premiered in Los Angeles. Some film critics claim that this movie will make people think twice before buying another diamond. Maybe. But maybe the DiCaprio-generated momentum will be lost with all of the other mainstream media causes that get Americans riled up for 15 minutes and then are lost in the hype surrounding new episodes of America's Next Top Model.

Rapper Kanye West released a song last year that related the issue of conflict diamonds that has been plaguing Africa. He talked a good talk, but it would be more impressive if he'd stop buying diamonds. And maybe he has. I've never had a chance to ask him personally.

Of course, not all diamonds are conflict diamonds, but major jewelry distributors do not track their diamonds as carefully as the claim that they do. And if everyone joined in a diamond boycott regardless of the diamond's conflict or non-conflict origin, maybe some of our world leaders and major jewelers would truly address the horrific crimes against humanity taking place in African diamond mining communities.

When we continue to buy diamonds it sends a message to the rest of the world that our own bling is more important than the limbs of African men, women and children. I don't know if I'll ever watch Leonardo's movie because I have a hard time stomaching Hollywood carnage. But I know I will never be one of those people who feels like just watching the movie and being aware is enough.

Increasing awareness without taking action is as inane as using an American flag bumper sticker as a personal stand against terrorism or wearing a pink ribbon to fight breast cancer. Those symbols often allow someone to feel like they've done something to make a difference when they really haven't done anything at all.

After reading Bill Maher's book "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden" in 2005, I decided that I would never purchase another diamond as long as another human being is losing limbs for my privilege to wear sparkly rocks.

It's a personal choice. I don't pass judgement on those who live by the mottos that "Diamonds are Forever" or "Diamonds are a girl's best friend." I know people who feel like the size of a diamond is indicative of the strength of a relationship. Some of those people are friends of mine, and I love them regardless of conflicting beliefs and opinions. A good friend even told me once that she deserves a diamond so that when things are hard she can look down at her finger and remember what her relationship means to her. In some ways, her declaration is truer than she realized because life is certainly hard for the person who lost their hand so that she could wear it ... but the wedding industry has ingrained the sentiment of diamonds into the romantic ideals of women worldwide. How many ways can you beat a dead horse? It has to be a personal choice.

In any case, I am just one person and neither my decision nor this blog entry will cause the collapse of the diamond industry. It just means that if my engagement ring is a cubic zirconia so that I can look at it and not think of an armless child ... so be it.

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