In case anyone is under the impression that our world is getting truly more peaceful and that racial/ethnic hatred is a notion better left to the darkness of a bygone century…read the following and ask yourself: Am I content to live in a world where it’s possible to develop video games that call for “ethnic cleansing” of the “other:”
Wanted to share the comment below…in response to the article I had written a few months back:
After reading your article, it occurred to me that I had an experience
similar to yours. During a 1979 visit to the Los Angeles Consulate to get
an extension on my Turkish Passport I met Turkey’s Consul General
Mr. Kemal. Mr. Arıkan, a kind, good natured “Babacan” gentlemen who
after signing my passport, asked me questions and was interested to hear if
I was able to cope working and going to school, and that I could call if I
needed help, and he was proud of my accomplishments. Every year I
looked forward to visiting the TR Consulate, getting my passport signed,
drink the çay and tell the consul general how I was promoted to a project
engineer and how everything was just great and so on and so forth. The last
stamp I received on my passport was January 27, 1982.
The next day, our Kemal Bey was shot and killed.
Harry Sassounian took his revenge for the crimes committed long before
our Kemal Bey was born. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation
supports Sassonian as a hero to this day. How does one deal with this?
First of all you stop all thoughts for a while and just get on with life. Next
step is to disassociate the underdeveloped individuals from the ethnic
group they belong.
Today, I enjoy the company of my good friends Agop Bey and Corina
Hanım, the owners of the Armenian restaurant Shiraz in Worcester. I have
completely disassociated the killer of Kemal Arıkan from my Armenian
friends. Similarly, my Armenian friends appear to have disassociated me
from the revolutionaries who murdered our citizens and destroyed our
Going forward, what can we do to soften the anger Armenians feel towards
the Turks and the seeming lack of compassion Turks exhibit towards
Armenians? Frankly I don’t think there is a lot we can do. Since 1915
mankind has evolved, however not enough for the majority to value a
human being for what he or she is, rather than clutter the equation with
gender, age, race, religion, nationality, etc.
Gonca, we have both been subjected to ultra nationalistic and downright racist
primary education, I have begun to question things ten years ago after turning fifty,
and having read your article, you are obviously well ahead of me and at an earlier age. I truly admire your sense of right thing to do.
I admit it, I allow myself a few guilty pleasures…one of which is to be a follower of the night time soap opera called “Kuzey Güney” on Turkish television…for no other reason than the fact that the young actor playing the character Kuzey is indeed easy on the eyes! The title of this nighttime soap translates into “North, South” and tells the story of the torrid family dynamics centering around two brothers with diametrically opposed characters. As I chat with one of my sisters about the oh-so-redeeming value of my guilty pleasure, she suggests that maybe “Kuzey Güney” is based on John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, the 1952 American classic based on the biblical story of Cain and Abel. And so, I pick up a copy and start reading…and here is what I come across in Chapter 1/section 2:
“First there were Indians, an inferior breed without energy, inventiveness, or culture, a people that lived on grubs and grasshoppers and shellfish, too lazy to hunt or fish. They ate what they could pick up and planted nothing. They pounded bitter acorns for flour. Even their warfare was a weary pantomime. Then the hard, dry Spaniards came exploring through, greedy and realistic, and their greed was for gold or God. They collected souls as they collected jewels.”
Surprised? Well I was. Here is John Steinbeck, winner of the Nobel prize in 1962, writing what today would have landed him on the cover of most newspapers, portrayed as a bigot and a racist.
Which brings me to the title of this blog: Racism…who owns it? Is there any single group of people who can be branded as the unique or sole owners of racism, prejudice and bigotry? Do we attack the first person or persons who come to mind when we speak of bigotry in our times, or in any other time in history for that matter? Or do we stop and think before we write that offending and offensive line, or send in that pithy comment or tweet, casually branding an entire people? As Armenians laud singer Cher for her Armenian ancestry, should they also reprimand her for her most famous song from the 70’s “Gypsies, tramps and thieves?” An ambiguous song: was she showing sympathy, or insulting all Romani women with stereotypical lines like “…every night all the men would come around and lay their money down.” Should we consider rescinding Steinbeck’s Nobel because we realize some of his brilliant prose could indeed be considered racist in 2012?
Is there any people in the world free of such lapses? I’m just asking…and by the way, that Cher song sure has a great melody…if you don’t dissect the lyrics too much…