Saturday, February 28, 2009

Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, Dead Armenians, and Learning from Mistakes

I went to school in America, so I know about the
  • Broken treaties with Indian nations
  • Dark days of legalized slavery
  • Overthrow of Kamehameha's kingdom
  • Atrocities during the War Between the States
  • Reconstruction's carpetbaggers
  • Relocation camps of WWII
  • Micromanaged mess we call the Vietnam War
In the last case, I was around while My Lai (and Watergate) became cultural icons.

That's one reason I'm so glad to be an American. Not what America did wrong: that, as an American citizen, my country made very sure that I knew what America had done wrong.

A Few Armenians Drop Dead, and They Act Like it's Some Big Deal

Around the start of the 20th century, a whole lot of Armenians stopped breathing, rather abruptly in some cases, in and around eastern Turkey. Scholars who study genocides give the Ottoman Empire credit for committing the first big genocide of the 20th century. More followed, making the Ottoman Empire a sort of international trend-setter.

Then, the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Turkey was a mess for a while, until Mustafa Kemal led the country into the current era of comparative peace and stability.

This is important:
  • Survivors of the Armenian genocide, who witnessed what the Ottoman Empire did, say that what happened was a genocide
  • Scholars who study genocides agree with them
  • The Ottoman Empire collapsed generations ago
  • Turkey was a mess, until Mustafa Kemal helped create the current government of Turkey
    • Which is not the Ottoman Empire
Given Turkey's history, I can understand - although not approve of - Turkey's blocking YouTube recently. Somebody thought that some video clips on YouTube insulted Mustafa Kemal.

So, Turkey blocked YouTube.

Think of it this way: If you're an American, and a YouTube video insulted (in your opinion) Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, or Harvey Milk, wouldn't you feel an impulse to block YouTube?

Maybe not. America doesn't operate that way, as a rule.

In Turkey, and elsewhere, it's different.

What started this post was a news item about a lawsuit:

"A father is suing the Turkish Education Ministry for forcing his 11-year-old daughter to watch a “racist” and “disturbing” film countering claims that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in 1915 with graphic allegations of Armenian atrocities against Turks." (TimesOnline)

That's right, folks: "Armenian atrocities against Turks."

Like the Old South, where dark-skinned people did terrible things to melanin-deficient immigrants.

I'm Not Anti-Turkey, But: Let's Get Real

I think that the post-Ottoman Empire government of Turkey, which isn't the Ottoman Empire at all, is not the worst national government in the world. By far. In fact, given the culture and history of the area, they're doing quite well. Sure, a few Christians get killed here and there (some were involved with printing Bibles, you see), and the odd journalist gets knocked off.

But I'm willing to assume that those incidents are part of what happens when a country is dragged across several centuries, into the the post-eighteenth-century world.

The refusal of Turkey's current government - which is not the Ottoman Empire - to recognize what the Ottoman Empire did to Armenians: that's something else.

But, I'm used to living in America. When we do something stupid, we admit it.

Then, we make learning about what we did wrong part of the curriculum for our educational systems: So we won't do it again.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.