The resolution on the Armenian genocide cleared a House panel yesterday, bringing it to the full House for an eventual vote. Predictably, the Turkish government protested the action. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I tend to agree with President Bush that this resolution is the wrong response at the wrong time, and only serves to anger an important ally. Or rather, to avoid the creepy feeling of agreeing with Bush, I agree with Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who opposed the resolution, saying, "We have failed to do what we're asking other people to do." Meeks, an African-American, is talking about the failure of Congress to address, with similar resolutions, this country's own treatment of indigenous peoples or its history of slavery.
It's been estimated that since Columbus arrived, 515 years ago tomorrow, the indigenous population of the Western Hemisphere has declined by 100 million.* Was this a genocide? Many people, especially Native Americans, say yes; many others, especially the white descendants of European settlers, say no. It's possible to find many Native Americans, for example, who claim that Andrew Jackson's Indian removal measures in the 1830s (including the infamous Trail of Tears) were an act of genocide against the Cherokee people. Yet a prominent white historian like Robert Remini can state unequivocally, "He was not intent on genocide" (The Life of Andrew Jackson, p. 114). While we clearly continue to struggle with our own contested history of genocide, it seems presumptuous of our government to take sides on such a divisive historical issue in another country.
For more background on the Armenian genocide, see my nephew's comment on my last post. I'll be interested in hearing what he learns over the course of his year in Izmir.
*The figure is from David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (Oxford University Press 1993).
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
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