Memphis Morality

We’re not talking about the capital of the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, but rather of an allegedly more modern time and place, the capital of the 16th joiner of the union known as the United States of America, reputed home of human rights advocates. Perhaps Tennessee wants to try its hand at secession once again, or at least its 9th Congressional District does.

Despite the separation of centuries, the two Memphises may share more than their names. Their attitude towards human life may be similar. The ancient Memphians felt no qualms about killing people to bury with their dead royals. The modern Memphians don’t care about the murder of 1.5 million people and blithely supported a leading congressional denier of the Armenian Genocide, Steve Cohen.

Even if the argumen’s posted by locals on various web locations, that the Genocide has nothing to do with the 9th CD in time and place, are taken as true for a moment, doesn’t the moral makeup of the man they choose to represent them have some bearing on that decision? How can someone who’s got Holocaust connections, who champions reparations for slavery, and generally seems to support much of what is the best for most people, be a Genocide denier? Shouldn’t this make a voter think twice about how fast Cohen would sell them out? How many of his positions are matters of convenience vs. conviction?

We were fortunate that documentarian and independent journalist Peter Musurlian went to the scene of the impending crime a few days before the 9th CD’s August 7 primary election. Besides getting material for his upcoming piece on the Cohen- Nikki Tinker race, he became news simply by sticking up for his rights.

Musurlian requested an interview with Cohen, and didn’t even get the courtesy of a rejection. On National Night Out, he found Cohen at a gathering and managed to fire off pointed questions at the denier. Unsurprisingly, he got no response, except at one point the “Member of Congress” broke out in song–his version of USC’s fight song, making something of a fool of himself.

The next morning, Cohen called a press conference at his home. Musurlian went and was ultimately denied access. Makes sense right? Call a press conference and disallow media you don’t favor. Sounds positively dictatorial. I wonder if Cohen is getting his training in autocracy from his friends in Ankara. In the process, Steve the Denier gets up from his sofa and proceeds to shove Musurlian out the door. Then, he tells his staff to throw Musurlian’s tripod (which had gotten left in the house) at Musurlian. These are the kinds of dignified behviors we’ve all come to expect from the 435 members of the House of Representatives, right? This was caught on camera and was leading news that night in Memphis!

As if his assault wasn’t enough, the hate speech about “these Armayneeians (sic)” emanating from this legislative leader would have the ACLU, NAACP, Amnesty International, and any other rights organization calling for Cohen’s head if it was about any other group. Plus, he said Armenia’s should go back to California and EMILY’s List (this organization too had endorsed Tinker) back to DC and New York. It would seem our denier resents “outside” interference in “his” district.

Let’s forget about the fact that he is running for reelection to an office where his votes impact the entire U.S. Let’s even forget the fact all kinds of political organizations and individuals get involved in all manner of races across the country at all levels of government. Let’s grant, for a moment, that Steve the Denier is entitled to his own petty, untrammeled fiefdom where no one from the outside has a right to get involved. Then why does he take the endorsement of “outside” organizations and individuals? NARAL, JStreet, and Sierra Club are hardly Memphis-based organizations, nor are Nancy Pelosi and Jesse Jackson Jr. local politicians.

But that’s not all. For someone who resents outsiders, and based on his commen’s, Californians, New Yorkers, and Washingtonians (D.C.) in particular, he sure has no qualms about taking money from outsiders. From the Federal Elections Commission website (which only lists contributions of $200 or more), we learn that of the $941,041 “Local” Steve has raised, $210,071, or 22.3% came form outside of Tennessee. These funds came from 1286 contributions, of which $220 (17%) came from out of state, with 27 from California ($27,450), 30 from NY ($17,003), and 31 from DC ($37,450). You’ll note that a lower proportion of the number of contributions from outside implies that those came in bigger chunks–uh-oh outside money buying him out! So Denier Cohen is also good at double standards, too.

Unfortunately, Cohen won the primary, and in a heavily Democratic district, he’s on his way back to Congress. What are we as the primary sufferers of his Turkophilia to do? Let’s keep at him. If it’s legal, let’s have a permanent picket posted outside his office in the Longworth House office Building. Let’s keep entering commen’s on Memphis based news sites and blogs. Let’s pursue criminal action against him with the local authorities for his assault on Peter Musurlian. Let’s support Musurlian and encourage him to file a civil suit for the same offense. Let’s contact his endorsers and urge them to withdraw their support. Let’s picket his home on April 24th. Let’s pursue action in the House of Representatives, first in the ethics committee, but through any other means as well. Let’s face it, we dropped the ball with two-faced denier Jane Harman. Let’s not let Steve Cohen off the hook now that its in him. Every elected official should realize that we’re prepared to make life miserable for them if they choose to become accomplices to Genocide denial by Turkey.


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