It is the question I ask myself as I stare into the blank faces of the 100 or so black and white photographs that line the schoolroom walls; now converted to a memorial in remembrance of the brutal genocide of the Khmer Rouge.
This photo board is titled 1977, the year I was born.
In the 9 months, my mom holds me in her womb, 1000’s of innocent men, women and children are tortured then brutally murdered, and afterwards their bodies are disposed of; landfill for the rats and stray dogs to pick away at their rotting carcass’.
And to think, the next 20 years of my life would hold a similar fate for those unlucky enough to be born into this time and to this place.
Doing ad libs with my kids, sheltered from the scorching mid-day Cambodian sun of the S21 courtyard gives me pause, I look onward at the face of only one of 7 survivors during that 4 year period. I ask the kids if they will come shake his hand, I consider him a hero.
Tonight, in this hotel room surrounded by the ones I love I wonder how I would react if someone held a gun to my family and asked me to take the life of a child. My family or theirs? What would I do? Would I have the courage to do the right thing?
Many of those who survived the genocide have gone on to forgive their captors, acknowledging they were only following “orders”.
But I am not sure I believe in orders, in the end it comes down to free will and being prepared to do what we know is right even if it means dying for what we believe in.
We must ask ourselves, from whom then do we take our orders?