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“To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss” was adopted as an official slogan of sorts by the Cambodian communists to refer to the urbanites and moderns they wanted annihilated. Both these films show that ghoulish phrase for the hideous lie it is. Both films ended with title cards about how, though the Khmer Rouge managed to kill many specific people, the victims' spirit and accomplishments live on.
That can seem like the sort of banality people mutter to quiet inner voices of outrage and pain. But the truth in it is the basis of all human civilization: we can send signals from our brains and hearts across generations and across nations. Whether murdered by fanatical advocates of evil ideologies or not, we will all end up dead. But not all of us will have people singing our songs, and our praises, decades after we’re gone. That Ros Sereysothea, who disappeared mysteriously under Khmer Rouge control, achieved that is proof enough that the Khmer Rouge failed.
Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man and Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.