Today is the 23rd of April. It will be celebrated across Turkey as The Children’s Festival. It’s the day that the first government was established after the independence war against the Greeks and Allied occupiers after World War I. It’s called the Children’s Festival because Ataturk dedicated the government to the children and to Turkey’s future.
Tomorrow is April 24 – which to the Armenian community is Armenian Genocide Commenoration Day. Specifically, it’s the 100th anniversary of the events between the Ottomans and the Armenians.
In Turkey, my blog would be banned for putting those first two words – Armenian and Genocide – together in a sentence.
President Obama has announced that he won’t call it a genocide, which is a big “win” for Turkey according to the Armenian-American community.
I think they’re wrong. I don’t think the word matters.
Here’s what I propose we worry about instead…
Let’s all use tomorrow to think about how easily, and effectively, modern technology has made it to mass murder millions of individuals with whom we disagree.
Let’s look at the actions of the Americans (Trail of Tears) Belgians (Congo), the Ottomans (eastern Anatolia), the Germans (the Holocaust), and way too many more to list over the last 200 years, and understand what we need to actively do to prevent industrial mass murder from happening again.
Because you see I can’t change what happened in the past. And the title I give those events doesn’t change that they happened. What I don’t know is whether there are legal ramifications of calling it a genocide, but I doubt Turkey would acknowledge them anyway.
So I acknowledge that I can’t change the past. I also acknowledge that the past happened (this too might be illegal in Turkey). But I can be part of building a future that makes sure that the innocent, the young, the disadvantaged, and the unlucky still have a voice and a protectorate.
And I think building that future (by learning from those events in the past) is way more valuable than redefining the words the President uses to describe them.
So I don’t think whether a politician calls the massacre of Armenians a genocide or not matters. People who didn’t need to, and shouldn’t have, died in numbers that were appalling (regardless of whether it was 1, 400k, or 1.5mil).
But I do think that we have a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And those are the words I want to hear from the West Wing.