Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday Protest

A quick update on the tomb of Kemal the Martyr I mentioned a few entries back. I was out running this morning. It was twice the usual Saturday traffic with every lunatic driver in Istanbul hysterically honking their horn at red lights, at other stopped cars, at pedestrians. Something was gumming up the works. Police were blocking the main street, and the usual deluge of cars was being diverted down side streets. I went my usual route down past the stadium, along Poop River (they're building a esplanade along the shore, but its still littered with trash, jelly fish, and yes, poop), and up toward ol' Willow Fountain Mosque (Sogutlu Cesme). Then, as I was coming down the sidewalk next to the cemetery, I saw a group of people carrying Turkish flags and signs from various parties, including the "Worker's Party". They held a banner that said, "We did not do the Armenian Genocide. We were defending our country." Which of course, begs the question, what do you mean? How were you defending your country? Ugh. But it's always this circular reasoning...we didn't do it, and they deserved it. Never mind that this "defending our country" bit is always the justification. The KKK were defending their country when they lynched and terrorized black people. Hitler was defending his country from the Jews. The Hutus were defending their country from the Tutsis. The 9/11 attackers and Oklahoma bomber were defending their respective countries. No one commits atrocities because they're bored. ANYWAY, this is April 10th, the day that Kemal was executed. (Again, for something that never happened, its strange to me that people get so worked up about it a century later, worked up enough to shriek hysterically in the street on a perfectly lovely day. Kemal is an interesting case all around. The testimony that convicted him was not from Allied toadies or political opponents but from ordinary villagers where he was stationed, including the mufti, all of whom were horrified at what he had done in their name). So wherefore all the hubbub? A lawyer in Ankara has called for recognition of the genocide and the removal of names like Talaat Pasha and Kemal Bey from street signs. Also, of course, the US government is going to vote (down) a proposal to officially recognize the genocide. I hate cowering to the whackjob in the street, but I don't think the US should vote yes. Turkey is slowly lightening up, it seems, on the issue. The lawyer in Ankara may get himself shot, but his stance is kind of unprecedented. And just last week, the Turkish government itself gave permission for Armenian schools to use books in their own language. Maybe the Turks will learn to work this out on their own, like Americans with our, ahem, checkered past. Well, then again given the recent revision of textbooks in Texas to once again emphasize the idealistic settlers (whites) bringing democracy and whatnot to the wilderness (the Native Americans) without reference to the slaughter and rape that went on for the next three centuries....who knows.

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