The Most Violent Conflict of the 21st Century that No One Was Expected to Have an Opinion About

David Dylan Thomas
3 min readOct 19, 2023

It means so little we had to make up a country just to say it.

I feel like if I say “I stand with Israel” I’m basically telling all my Palestinian friends to go fuck themselves.

I feel like if I say “I stand with Palestine” I’m basically telling all my Jewish friends to go fuck themselves.

I feel like if I say nothing I’m a coward.

But the truth is, I can’t stand with Israel if that means I have to condone the genocide of civilians (or the preceding decades of human rights abuses in Gaza). And I can’t stand with Palestine if that means saying it’s okay for Hamas to slaughter civilians.

But I can say this.

Fuck Hamas.

Fuck Netanyahu.

Fuck genocide.

I can say I stand with the civilians who never asked to be a part of this. Who were just trying to live their lives when the bombs started falling or the hostages started getting taken or whatever horror was visited upon them by a group that could give a shit about their well-being. Whose voices cry out from the grave “Why did I have to die?” or whose loved ones cry out “Why did they have to die?” I can stand with those folks.

But I’m seeing a lot of posts that basically say you have to decide whose lives are okay to annihilate.

But here’s the thing that, in addition to ALL OF THAT, is keeping me up at night. Something that gets triggered every time I see a post about how you absolutely have to have an opinion about what’s going on.

I am, as it turns out, very familiar with the idea of two sides in a conflict having committed atrocities. That’s because it happened on a much, much, much larger scale in a place very dear to me over the previous two years in the deadliest conflict of the 21st century. And most people have never even heard of it.

This thing killed more people than Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all of the 21st Century Gaza wars combined.

I’ll give you a hint. My dad’s Ethiopian, so this hits pretty close to home.

It’s Ethiopia/Tigray. Conservative estimates put the number at around 600,000 killed. It’s probably higher. And it was two sides who decided the best response to aggression was attempted genocide.

And nobody cared.

Nobody noticed.

Certainly not at the level we see for Ukraine, for Israel/Palestine, even for Myanmar, which was 70,000 dead and actually in the news cycle for a hot minute.

And here’s the thing. OF COURSE Israel/Palestine should be dominating news and popular discourse. OF COURSE Ukraine should’ve when it did (and still does). BUT WHY THE FUCK NOT A CONFLICT THAT KILLED ALMOST 100 TIMES AS MANY PEOPLE!?!?! MY PEOPLE!!?!?!

Because they’re Africans. And Africans don’t count. Not like Russians. Not like Ukranians. Not like Israelis. Not like Palestinians.

You can kill over half a million of us and it will never be on the front page of any paper or in a “I stand with” statement on anyone’s timeline.

We just don’t matter.

And every time I see another post about how you HAVE to have an opinion because HISTORY will look back and judge you, I get it.

But why the fuck not for us? Why won’t history judge you for not having an opinion about us?

And I get how it’s selfish to bring this up now, but I bring it up in part to show us WHAT WE NEED TO AVOID. European fuckery in Africa was surprisingly similar to European fuckery in West Asia (a lot of taking groups that were living together pretty well beforehand and fucking with land rights to make sure that didn’t happen anymore, sound familiar?).

But if being courageous in this moment is saying how you truly feel, this is how I truly feel. It’s fucked up we ignored the most violent conflict of our century not just because it’s the height of racism to do so but because it robs us of the opportunity to maybe, just maybe, learn something from it.

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David Dylan Thomas

Big fan of treating people like people. Author, Design for Cognitive Bias. Founder, CEO, David Dylan Thomas, LLC. Speaker, Lots of Places.