I am writing this with the hope that on April 24th a universal sigh of relief will reverberate throughout the Diaspora of Armenians and throughout what little homeland we have left. I am writing this with a hollow feeling because as an American I want to trust the moral rightness on which this country was founded based on the principles of justice for civil and human rights. I am writing this with the yearning that on April 24, America will have the courage to stand on the right side of history and recognize the atrocities of 1915 calling it by its name: Genocide.
I know that justice is not an object to have, but often a difficult journey to undertake. We saw that most recently, when a sigh of relief was heard nationwide after weeks of nervous anticipation at the momentous decision in the Derik Chauvin trial when the verdict was announced guilty on all three counts. The guilty verdict was as cathartic and dramatic as a cleansing purge that occurs which releases the painful emotions of an injustice that is made right with truth. Will this bring in a new age where we can confidently speak the truth– that Black Lives Matter — as we strive for equality before the law and affirm our inherent core values and respect our civil rights? I hope so. Because I believe this judgment is right, just, and moral, and in a way, a triumph long overdue. And it is our responsibility to turn this moment into a lasting movement of civil rights equal under the law.
By the same token, a sigh of relief that some justice had been served was undoubtedly heard around the world after The Nuremberg Trials, which were prompted by indictments on Oct. 18, 1945, against some twenty individuals for crimes against humanity during World War II. In a way, that too was a triumph. Prosecutors successfully argued that German military and political officers such as Goring, Jodl, Keitel, and Frick violated natural law while serving the German war machine. The difficult journey of Holocaust survivors toward justice for crimes against their humanity had just begun. After four decades of denying a dark past, in 1990, East Germany apologized to Israel and all Jews for the Nazi Holocaust and accepted joint responsibility for the slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.
The question of moral responsibility for an action at the time it occurred and the moral responsibility in the present time, for actions of the past cannot be separated. In other words, moral responsibility for an action, once committed, is set in stone. Germany recognized that after 40 years.
On April 24, it will be 106 years that Armenians have been waiting to release that cathartic sigh of relief for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1.5 million at the hands of Ottoman Turkey. 106 years of historical truth, knowledge, proof, memoirs, photos, loss, grief, pain, protests, letters, to hear an acknowledgment that the Armenians suffered a Genocide! The word genocide is important to the Armenians because it was coined by Lemkin who, for 25 years studied the massacres and deportations of Armenians and officially introduced it to a world wide audience when it was adopted by the United Nations ‘Genocide’ Convention in 1948. The term Genocide referred to the killing, injuring or forcible removal of people with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
In 2019, both houses of Congress adopted a resolution recognizing the Genocide. But recognition by the president of the United States will be a kind of moral beacon to the world that signals the American commitment to human rights outweighs the scale of political and monetary gain. Recognition by a US President would hold officers of the Ottoman Government implicated in such crimes and current officers personally responsible for their crimes against humanity .
It has been over a century, and I know that if that sigh of relief is not heard and echoed across the globe as I hope it will on April 24, 2021, Armenians will continue to resist the injustice to bring the change we seek. We must pursue as a declaration of our worth and humanity. Healing does not come by closing the books and turning away from the truth. Healing starts when the devastating consequences of injustice and loss are seen and acknowledged. For the Armenians it starts with the word Genocide.