April 22, 2009

When the "Other" Side is harder...

You don't want to believe it's possible - that you could have done it. Any human being can be killed, but can anyone kill? You wonder, can they? Out of cold blood? Not in self-defense. You know it wasn't YOU, per se. But it was the people who raised you, the people who loved you and whom you loved, and you wonder...You wonder, if you'd been alive then, would it have been you too? Would you have killed pregnant women, ripping fetuses out of their bellies and then letting mother and child die in a ditch? Would you have killed and tortured small children? Would you have murdered the men who tried to defend them? Would you have raped and pillaged and taken all the money and assets they had and used them to make yourself rich? You wonder, and it scares you. You hope you couldn't have done that. You don't want to believe that it could maybe have been anyone - that it could maybe have been everyone - that it could have been you. And so you decide it couldn't have happened. You don't want to believe it happened. You deny it happened.

When you look back and see that you were so clearly wronged, it's perhaps easier to come to terms with your present, to love your people and to take pride. After all, you do not have the blood of millions of your nation's hands. It's easier this way. I make the argument from original position here - it's not my fault I was born with Armenian ancestry and not Turkish. I did nothing to end up naturally positioned on the more sympathetic side of this conflict. I did nothing that saved me from being born with terrible shame. And so, I genuinely believe that perhaps whatever pain I feel now when I think of the history to which you all know I am referring, perhaps that's not as bad as the pain I would feel if I had to wonder not, "Could I have been killed?" but "Could I have killed?"

In the aftermath of genocide, both the ancestors of its perpetrators and its victims must question their humanity. Victims wonder how people could not respect their humanity. How they could be treated like dust, but those who perpetrated genocide or are descended from these perpetrators must ask a much harder question, how could you kill someone as though they were nothing? Do true humans do that? Am I LESS human because I/my friends and family/ my ancestors did that?

Turkey just recalled its ambassadors from Canada because the Turkish government, 90 years later, still denies the Armenian Genocide was in fact a genocide. To an extent, they blame the victim. I wish they'd recognize the genocide. I wish we could all have closure and just to rebuild a relationship that was once so close - as Armenians and Turks lived together in the same country for centuries. I wish we could unite in this shared heritage, but there was this one moment when our history was shared and yet not shared. We were killed and they the killers. Both sides lost a part of their humanity, but they lost it in very different ways. Still, I'd like to remind any Armenian who is angry about the Turkish government continuing to deny the genocide where millions were killed and displaced and deprived of their country and loved ones - remember, in a way, this history is easier for us than it is for them...

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