Saturday, November 25, 2006

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Free Speech?

Since we began the Crucible of War project in 2000, one of our main commitments was to go beyond merely producing a video documentary which can only tell a few stories. We wanted to open up our website to be an interactive forum where people from and interested in the Balkans could share their own experiences. Well, you certainly did. Since the site first went up, we have received more than 400 postings and private e-mails.

For those who have the time to peruse the "Share Your Stories" thread, you can get a sense of many of these postings. Some are hopeful. Some are poignant. And some are downright disturbing. In fact, it is the disturbing nature of some of the postings which prompted the following e-mail to us:
Your site was brought to my attention by a friend who spoke highly of your
documentary. She used words such as "wanted to bring peace", "did not show
biases", "embraced all religious sides" to describe your documentary. As a
person who highly believes in peace and equity for all mankind, regardless of
race, creed, religion, nationality etc... naturally, I was interested in
this documentary. I decided to check out the website, only to be so
discouraged by your feedback pages. I am very confused, as your documentary seem to send a positive message of togetherness and tolerance, yet you have allowed many people to post messages that are truly racist, ignorant and go against the basic principles of unity/peace. Yes, many people were deeply affected and
displaced because of the war, and I am sure that these people still have
much healing to do...however, some of the comments posted continue to breed
hatred and fuel feelings of anger and ignorance thus being part of the problem,
not the solution. I am not sure if you have considered not posting such
comments, as I would suggest that the comments should reflect the message your documentary is sending or actually critique of the documentary rather than point fingers and be hateful. Thank you for considering my suggestion.

We considered this suggestion from the time we began our forums. In the end, we decided to only remove postings that contained irrelevant advertising, were one line slurs without any context to them, or were back-and-forth fights where little new was being added to the discussion. We also edit English-language postings for profanities since many anglophone students use our website as a research tool.

We made the difficult decision to allow postings of points of view which we do not share because we feel this is a reflection of reality. What we have tried to portray in the documentary is that war does not end simply because the guns have been silenced and the wartime leaders have been replaced. War is something which remains in the hearts of those who have been affected. All the pain. All the longing. All the hope. All the despair. All the wondering whether it is ever possible to forgive. All the wondering whether this will be the last generation to experience war.

One of the themes we touch on in the documentary is the fact that many who survived the Second World War chose not to discuss the war, to leave it all behind them, to cover up their emotions and "move on." Yet all these emotions were simply lying latent like embers in a crucible and it did not take much for the fire to return. Now there are millions of people who have experienced the 1990s wars in the region. Some also want to leave it all behind them and pretend those lost years never happened. Some are reliving those years every day. And some are trying to find some place in the middle -- a place between remembering the past and planning a new future whether in their homeland or the disapora. Our forum allows them a place to have that dialogue, as painful as it may be, in a safe space. Far be it from us to judge their experiences and attitudes.

Searching for Family and Friends from X-Yugo?

In the years since we first started the Crucible of War website, we have received numerous postings from people who are looking for long lost relatives, friends, or colleagues in or originally from one of the countries of former Yugoslavia. Some of these are from members of the vast x-Yugo diaspora. Others are from peacekeepers and aid workers who have now moved on to other parts of the globe, but never forgot their time in the Balkans and want to renew their friendshops and contacts.

If you are looking for someone, please post in the comments for this thread.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Share Your Story

Have you visited the Crucible of War website or seen our documentary film and now want to share your own Balkan story with others? Whether you are currently or formerly from any of the countries or territories of what was once Yugoslavia, this is the place to let your thoughts flow. Current and former members of the international community who have worked or served in the region are also welcome to share your own experiences.

We have a few groundrules:

1) You can post in any language, but please be aware that most of our readers understand English. While we spent the first year of this project, translating all comments into English, we no longer can afford the time or expense.

2) Different viewpoints are welcome here, but please don't mistake us allowing these viewpoints on our website for us condoning these opinions. The opinions belong to those individuals and not to the Crucible of War team.

3) We reserve the right to remove any postings which contain irrelevant comments, advertising, obscenity, or are one line nationalistic rantings. Please remember that many of the people who read these pages are not necessarily familiar with the region and are visiting the site to understand more. If you have strong political viewpoints, why not explain your personal experiences which are behind them?

Oh, and if you are wondering why the first 337 posts were made anonymously on November 19 and 25, 2006, they weren't. Those are the dates we converted from our outdated feedback pages on our website to a blogging program. Unfortunately we could not migrate the posting dates over, but those posts were made between 2000 and 2006.

Feedback on Crucible of War

Welcome to the new feedback page for Crucible of War. If you have already seen our documentary film or visited our website, this is the place to tell us what you think. Please limit comments here only to feedback for us on the film or website. If you want to share your own thoughts on or experiences in the Balkans, please do so at our Share Your Story page.

We originally received many comments between 2000 and 2006 on the feedback page on our website. We have transferred that function over to this blog. This is why you see the first 20 postings all with a November 19 or 25, 2006 date -- we brought those comments over to this blog, but could not bring the original posting dates with them.