Tuesday, March 02, 2010

We'll have to keep score ourselves 

Everyone in the Armenian community that I know was abuzz late last week on word that 60 Minutes would show a segment on the Armenian genocide. The teaser for it had Peter Balakian, whom I've written about before, visiting a mass grave at Deir El Zor. Below is the segment they showed Sunday night:

As I would have expected, my family was ambivalent about the documentary. There is of course joy that our ancestors' history is being told on American TV -- and I don't think we've ever had a prime time showing quite like this, at least in my memory -- and we encourage each other and send this clip to all our friends, Twitter it and Facebook it. But soon comes the pessimism that nothing will happen. I got those letters from my family over the last 36 hours. Last night I sent an answer back to them. I've edited it to share with you, removing references to particular things my parents or aunts said while I think retaining what I wanted to say:

We all seem to believe politicians promise things they don't believe and will not follow through on, yet we believe them when they promise us something we really want. And when they disappoint us -- as they invariably do -- we somehow act surprised. When we want to sound smart we call this cognitive dissonance. But in our private moments, we realize we've just been snookered, that we're the saps. And four years later, we do it all over again. It's just us being human.

Nobody ever won an election for upholding someone ELSE'S history. They don't have skin in the game. The only way this ever happens is to run an Armenian for president, have them win. And won't THAT be a glorious day!

But the last guy wasn't Bushian, and this guy isn't Obamaian. So let's get real. I don't think even Dole would have signed a recognition law. He'd do the same calculation every other president has done, and he'd arrive at the same conclusion. He's the president of the USA, not of Armenia.

The reason the Turkish government will never admit it is, whomever does so will be killed by Islamist fanatics. Their leaders aren't going to die for our history, either. We'll have to do the remembering ourselves and don't trust anyone else to do it for us.

And if you find this email depressing, well, it is and I am.
The reference to Bob Dole is to his long support for the Armenian community after an Armenian doctor, Dr. Hampar Kelikian, healed Dole's broken body after his plane crashed in WW2.

Because we have to keep score ourselves, we continue to have debates about that history that approaches 100 years ago. We have to somehow agree to a panel to decide if our history qualifies as a genocide, as if someone owns that word and decides whether we get to use it. That's the reality that the video won't change. So we'll have to keep our own score.