As a descendant of an Armenian genocide survivor, I’ve been initiated in the ritualized pride that sweeps over all ethnic groups when they look in a mirror – if they were to look in one collectively, with a stomped and tattered flag serving as a background. The rhetoric that makes them link arm-in-arm while championing country and history galvanizes those it doesn’t need to. Armenians have enough pride to fill earth’s melting cryosphere (even though that same pride would burn through and melt it again.) And they already know what happened: From 1915 to 1917, Ottoman Turks systematically murdered 1.5 million of our kin. What justice exists, if any, hasn’t come to a country that denies this genocide still.
If the goal is to broadcast this piece of history for other people to denounce, then the objective is worthy. But I’m about to write something that no Armenian worth her salt would: it’s a thin line that separates these marches from ones where the opposing flag is waved. Call me the proverbial leper in the diaspora.
Analogizing pride, whether justifiable pride or not (and who’s to justify it?), isn’t the labyrinth I want to get lost in. But it’s impossible to discuss “justice” without pointing out the obvious, which history points to time and time again, be our eyes shut in defiance: Nationalism is one- half the bedrock of human conflict. Religion is rightly relegated to the more jagged and spurious half.
As Americans, our privilege is stained with the blood of those who came before us… those who were wiped out so that instead of “them” it is “we” who stand here, we who breathe and tread the earth where their moccasins once tread. If invoking the ghosts of our own ethnic pasts does little to exalt their memories, then I offer an alternative: invoke the ghosts of others. Spotlight the mistreatment of others. In so drawing back the curtain of someone else’s plight, you vacate the position near your own. “Someone else” will take it up.
If you’re looking for good new fiction books to read, my last publication “Rise to Sunder” explores themes of ambition and betrayal, and a greater sickness that permeates the fabric of American society.