Remembering the Armenian Genocide
Memory is crucial to living well. It is how we learn from the past to navigate the present and live into a better future.
History is memory beyond the individual level. It is the preserved memory of our species. What we remember and whether or not we remember has a powerful influence on how we live, what we value, and how we make choices. History, therefore, is power. The ability to shape and control remembered history is power, and being power, it is fought for.
All of us know too little of history, but we can live into a better future if we learn, remember, and apply the lessons offered us today.
Here is a place to start.
Last week, on Wednesday, April 24th was the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. It is the day for the world to remember how in 1915 the Islamic Ottoman Empire systematically exterminated 1.5 million Armenian Christians along with thousands of Greek and Assyrian Christians as well.
Murder by one’s own government (called “democide”) was the leading cause of non-natural death in the 20th century (also see HERE). The ruling Ottoman political party called “The Young Turks”* accomplished their genocide through following a fairly standard pattern. For the “public good” they propagandized their citizens, they suppressed free speech – particularly politically dissenting speech, and for “public safety” they registered firearms, and then confiscated firearms. Then on April 24th, 1915 government agents began rounding up Armenian community leaders and thought leaders – arresting them, torturing, and killing them. Some were simply shot in the head, but others were butchered, tortured, or crucified.
Then they came for the rest of the people. Those they didn’t kill outright they either conscripted into the army or put on death marches into the desert where many of them died of starvation, dehydration, and disease. Pregnant women, young children, the disabled, and anyone who couldn’t keep up, were shot, stabbed, or beaten to death. Young Armenian women were often raped, subjected to forced conversion to Islam and forced marriage, or made into concubines.
One and half million lives lost and so many more irreparably shattered.
Adolf Hitler rationalized his own atrocities by saying, “Who, after all, today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?” He expected us to avert our eyes and forget.
God help us to remember and learn from the past.
*Interestingly, there is a popular media network in the United States today named after this murderous political movement – “The Young Turks.” Its founder, Cenk Uyger is heavily involved in American politics.