Let’s Drag That Dusty Ottoman Out of The Closet

I feel like the prodigal son, returning home after a long absence searching for that which would quench his thirst for life. I haven’t written a column for so long that I can’t even remember what my last column was about. I wish I had done something exciting or daring like traversing the globe in a hot air balloon or filming a documentary about the migration patterns of penguins in southern Chile, titled "Chile Willy" (Yes, there are penguins in Chile. Google it if you don’t believe me)! But instead, I just walked around the greater Los Angeles area doing a lot of nothing, kind of like David Carradine in the TV Show Kung Fu. I spent most of my time just watching people on the street, and took notes. Other times I pursued my life passion of searching for the best Armenian barbeque sandwich in all of Southern California . But what started off feeling like a promising, fun filled three-day weekend trip to Las Vegas with a group of my closest friends ended up feeling more like a never ending tour bus ride to some depressing smoke filled casino in Laughlin, Nevada with a group of elderly Armenian grandmothers and grandfathers who only play nickel and penny slots. I even started going through Armenian newspaper withdrawal. There was one week where all I did was watch daytime TV talk shows. (By the way, I’ve watched so many court room TV shows that I’m thinking of taking the California Bar Exam and starting my own Attorney Call-in Show on Armenian Cable). This was followed by a week of watching nothing but Spanish soap operas. I even found an Armenian channel that showed a Brazilian soap opera dubbed in Armenian. This was possibly the worst TV program I have ever seen in my life. The dubbing was so horrible and the quality of the picture looked like someone had bootlegged the show directly off of a Brazilian TV screen with a personal camcorder. In spite of this, I got hooked on this show for three weeks. My point is that I wasn’t sick, nor did I start a new job that kept me too busy to find time to put my thoughts on paper. And I certainly am not dead. All of these were theories proposed by different readers on my blog. The unglamorous truth is that I just needed time off and some long overdue rest. But to all those who speculated one of these theories, I thank you. Because if nothing else, it shows that someone cares. Having gotten that off my chest, it feels great to be back in print. During my absence over the course of many months, readers from all over–the internet, Uzbekistan, New Jersey and other exotic places–have inquired as to what I’ve been doing, or why I took such a long time off, or just simply what I was having for breakfast that day. None of this matters; but I promise that I’ll address it in an upcoming column. But what’s more important than where I was or what I was doing is what has been going on while I was missing in action. Probably the most significant news story of the day/week/month/year/decade (circle one that you think applies) was the new law criminalizing Armenian Genocide Denial which was passed by the French National Assembly. Vive La France! Let’s hear it for the country that gave us the baguette, perfume, croissants, brie cheese, the Cannes Film Festival, the Eiffel Tower, and Edithe Piaff! In a historic move, the French Parliament passed a law, emulating one that is already on the books regarding the Jewish Holocaust, which makes denial of the Armenian Genocide a crime. There are those who criticize the law by saying it limits free speech and is contradictory to the values of the European Union. Even Hrant Dink, an Armenian newspaper publisher from Istanbul, Turkey who has spoken about the Genocide in Turkey and seemed to know what he’s talking about, came out and said that the law is wrong. He went as far as to say that he’d be willing to go to France, deny the Armenian Genocide and sit in jail just to prove his point. He went even further by saying that now, because of the French law, Turks are being perceived as victims. . . wait, I can’t do this. I want to find his exact quote so no one thinks I’m making this up. Just give me a second to "Google" the article which appeared in the Glendale News Press about two weeks ago. Here’s what Dink said: "Until today, the world has held Armenia’s in high esteem because they were victims of genocide," he [Dink] said. "Now the Turkish people are the victims because their right to free speech is being denied and the Turks will use that against Armenia’s." I had to read that quote TWICE and then hear the same words essentially repeated during one of his public lectures, to realize that this guy was actually serious about what he was saying. Like Forest Gump, I’m not a smart man. I never claimed to be. But I know that someone who’s had their family massacred and land stolen is worse off than someone who has had their freedom of speech taken away. And let me just say that this isn’t just my opinion or the opinion espoused by any Armenian political organization, but the opinion of EVERY Armenian-American I have spoken to on this issue. When I explain what the French law is really about, and explain about the precedent set by the Jewish Holocaust Law combined with Turkey’s ongoing campaign of denial, 99% of non-Armenia’s agree with the French law as well. I’m wondering if Dink were given the same choice–a death sentence or told to shut up–which one would he chose? I welcome any Turkish citizen or spokesperson to use this ‘denial’ of free speech about the genocide against Armenia’s to portray themselves as victims, as Dink suggests that they will do. They won’t dare to do it, because every time they open their virulent, hate spewing mouths, they will have to admit that Armenia’s died and that they were driven from their homelands. This is contrary to the propaganda they’ve forced down their people’s throats that denies there ever was a historic Armenian presence in Asia Minor long before the Turks ever arrived. Dink’s rationalization is like the story of the thief who breaks into a house, assaults the homeowner, steals his property, rapes the women and children (come to think of it, this is a perfect analogy) and after he’s caught by the police, sues the homeowner for the broken leg he suffered while running away from the cops. Any judge who rules in favor of the thief is a complete idiot. Anyone who thinks that the Turks are greater victims than the Armenia’s who have been denied justice for over 91 years is an idiot. Anyone who thinks that this new French law will create a tsunami of support for Turks to enter into the EU is an idiot as well. Is the French law about the Armenian Genocide or the Jewish Holocaust fair? Probably not if you are an advocate of free speech (which I am), but when has Turkey ever been the champion of free speech? This is a country that routinely arrests and sues people who attempt to speak openly about their nation’s sordid past. The French are just giving the Turks a little bit of their own medicine while simultaneously making a point about Turkey’s refusal to own up to their past and present crimes against the Armenian people. Here’s what’s important for Dink and everyone else to understand. The issue is not freedom of speech. Turks shouldn’t be debating about the genocide when what happened is as clear as the ruined churches and Armenian homes that Turks and Kurds live in today. Turkey wants this to be a "speech" issue because it welcomes debate on the Genocide and when that happens, the Turks have taken one step back but two steps forward. They’ve acknowledged that there were Armenia’s in Asia Minor, but they’ve now cast what happened to them in doubt and that is a load of bovine manure in whether in Turkish, French, Armenian or English! I’m going to give credit where it’s due. I’m glad the French National Assembly passed the law because it brought this issue back to life. That’s at least one Assembly that’s actually doing something for the Armenia’s (Zing!) For one whole week, this issue dominated the airwaves and print media, not just in the US and in Europe but in Turkey as well. This is the true intent of the French law. The French understand that Europe will have to remodel its living room and they’re doing their best to accommodate different tastes and sensibilities. But before they lay all of their furnishings out for everyone to see, they have to ensure their own safety. So now they’re faced with an old moldy Ottoman that’s been sitting in dark, dank basement of denial for years. Everyone wants to bring it out, but France knows that this Ottoman is covered with mold, falling apart and dangerous. But sunshine is the best disinfectant. And France is trying to disinfect this Ottoman with the light of truth. More power to the French and if Hrant Dink can’t see that, then maybe he’s been in the dark for too long too! Skeptik Sinikian still lives in Glendale and is currently rehabilitating himself by driving over the speed limit in a tinted window BMW while talking on a cell phone and eating a kebab sandwich. You can email him at SkeptikSinikian@aol.com or visit his soon to be updated (yet again) blog at www.sinikian.blogspot.com.

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