Friday, April 24, 2015

Genocide and the passive voice

It’s the 100th anniversary of the genocide that dare not speak its name. Or at least whose name American presidents dare not speak. Thee Armenian Genocide. Barack Obama issued a statement.

He doesn’t use the word genocide, but he does call it “the first mass atrocity of the 20th Century.” I assume in the hierarchy of violence to which all leaders subscribe, the mass atrocities inflicted in the many 20th century wars that preceded 1915 don’t count as mass atrocities because they are the legitimate acts of governments, just as drone strikes don’t count as murder.

Also, the Armenian Genocide was not the first mass atrocity of the 20th century, it wasn’t even the first genocide. Hello, Herero people of Namibia! Sorry we keep forgetting you!

“the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths.” All that passive voice. Deported by whom? Massacred by whom? Did they march to their deaths because they really enjoyed marching?

Also note the use of the archaic-sounding “Ottoman Empire” rather than Turkey.

“Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides...” Wow, even Bush didn’t straight up adopt Turkey’s everybody-was-doing-it narrative.

Then he sort of skips past the specifics of mass atrocity to celebrating Ambassador Henry Morgenthau for collecting information about what was going on and making it public, and the American people for relief work. All of which is worth celebrating, but really, dude, everything that happens is the world is not all about us.

“I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed.” You haven’t used the word “genocide” since 2008, so don’t trumpet your consistency.  “Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past.” Like remember that time I had to admit blowing up some hostages “accidentally” with a missile shot from another thing whose name I don’t use? Good times.

Now go read today’s Jon Schwarz post on the subject.

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