What Hrant Dink means to me…

I admit I’ve been a bit of an idealist most of my life…the kind of title that has made me the subject of derision among my closest friends and family.  Family members have been known to gift me with humorous postcards, books and the like on peacemakers, Buddhists and others, pulling my leg and insinuating that I should stop being such an idealist, that I should come out of my own utopia and join the real world. And yet I don’t think I ever will…

You see, I spent the weekend going through a bunch of video clips on Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor who was murdered in İstanbul 6 years ago.  As the date of his commemoration inched closer over the past couple of weeks, I kept thinking of something I had heard him say…not in person but on a piece of digital video…I was compelled to look for it and so I searched through half a dozen discs and finally found what I was looking for:  During a videotaped discussion on the campus of Boğaziçi University in İstanbul (I cannot locate the specific date), an audience member asks him one of those long winded questions ending with a quizzical question on whether he (Dink) still believed in utopias. Here’s his answer:

“In fact my utopias are still alive and well…and they will continue until the day I die…and then, even continue on through my grand children.”[1]

Dink has been dead for six long years.  His murder remains shamelessly unsolved…And yet his words and ideals have spearheaded a movement in Turkey where turning back is not an option.  Millions of people have been reexamining not only their nation’s history, but their own ancestral histories, as well as those belonging to millions of Armenians who had once called Anatolia home.  And it is through that kind of searching and probing that all of Turkey’s people, whether Armenian, Turkish or any other ethnicity, will be paving the road to better and unified tomorrows. Utopia you might ask? Maybe so…

And so, I thank you Hrant Dink for making me believe that being an idealist and a dreamer for utopias is nothing to sneer at.

[1] Please note that I have taken the liberty of translating Dink’s response from Turkish

Facebook Facts and Footnotes

I’ve always loved reading the footnotes in any article.  Not only because I was told way back in graduate school how valuable they can be for background and context, but I’ve always cherished the value of digging deeper and lifting the veil on those facts and figures that stare us right in the face.  The latter kind hit me just last Friday, when, against my better judgment, I decided to check in with social media first thing in the morning.  And so, I opened my eyes to a Facebook posting about the murder of an Armenian teacher in Istanbul.  Needless to say, I was horrified.  But I have to say that I was also disturbed about some of the comments that followed…those blanket statements about one ethnicity’s barbarity against another…  Never mind that a “man” had been slaughtered, it was his ethnicity that mattered… And wouldn’t you know it, two to three hours later, another bit of news followed.  The man was not Armenian you see, he simply happened to work at an Armenian school as a computer science instructor.  Then followed another batch of tit-for-tat comments …nothing surprising there. This is after all life a-la-social-media!  But here is one comment I wanted to translate from Turkish, from what I can only assume is an average FB user:

“We need to read a lot, learn a lot and stay away from one-sided and obsessive perspectives so as to see the world and humanity as a whole”

And that is why I like reading footnotes and in between the lines, because some of the best advice can sometimes be found not in that big huge headline, but in those little pockets of history, written nowadays in small print inside our social-media-infused lives. And so every now and then, it does seem worth it to sift through the unbearable weight of everything else that seems to blur our eyes to what really matters.