In the 1994 classic film "Shawshank Redemption," Tim Robbin gives an Oscar worthy performance as the wrongly imprisoned–mild mannered accountant Andy Dufresne. Dufresne is a victim of a system that has failed him and failed to carry out justice. Dufresne is thrown in prison for killing his wife and her lover while the real criminal literally gets away with murder. When most people would be resigned to their fate and give up–Dufresne spends years planning his getaway. And even after he endures unspeakable tortures and humiliation–Dufrense–escapes and reclaims his dignity. Dufrense crawled through a river of raw sewage "and came out clean on the other side."
It’s only natural that when I think of torture and prison abuse–I think about the Turkish Government. But lately I’ve been thinking about Andy Dufrense for a different reason. For the last month–the more I read about efforts for official acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide in Congress–the more I find myself revisiting the themes in this great movie–perseverance and redemption. Our community has crawled its way back from the traumatic turn of events back in 2000–when the Genocide Resolution in Congress was literally seconds away from a vote before being yanked by Speaker Dennis Hastert. That year–many things played in the community’s favor. An embattled Republican Congressman named James Rogan was in the race of his life for reelection. In what was the most expensive Congressional race in US history–it quickly became a debate on the Genocide Resolution–due mainly to the fact that Armenian American voters would play a significant role in that election.
Alas–the bill failed to be voted on; Rogan lost the election only to be replaced by a member of minority party (the useless Democrats failed to retake the House)–and the covert and clandestine efforts by such groups as the Armenian Assembly of America to reconcile our "differences" with the Turks in the form of the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) immediately killed all momentum built up by grassroots organizations like the ANC. But this year will be different. Or at least I hope so.
Once again–the stars have aligned and in such a way that nobody could have ever predicted. One of our main obstacles in the House–majority leader Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) has been indicted for alleged illegal behavior in raising money for Republicans running for office. Things are getting so hairy that he might even resign. This means his role will be filled by Congressman David Dreier who represents the district just north of Glendale and has a sizeable Armenian American population. Congressman Dreier is my new best friend. In fact I’ll be sending him a fruit basket and some Lehmejune from Sassoon Bakery to thank him in advance for pushing this bill to be considered by the full House. This is going to be an excellent test to see if our Republican friends in Congress are true to their word or if our most significant issue is merely a political football. The clock is ticking.
It took us five years of crawling in knee-deep political sewage but we’re finally knocking on Congress’s door again. There is no reason why we should be denied. The one person who can stand in the way of this resolution is the President and he’s got his own problems to deal with nowadays.
Oh–and that argument that Turkey is an essential ally? We’ll see how much water that holds now after the Republic of Turkey denied American troops access to the northern front of Iraq. You know you’ve screwed up when you turn even your ardent supporters like Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) against you in committee. We’re almost there. We need to keep crawling.
We’re pushing forward on all cylinders. Just yesterday–MTV ran a story on the rock band System Of A Down protesting in front of Speaker Hastert’s district office in Illinois. The European Parliament stressed that recognition of the Armenian genocide is essential to Turkey’s accession into the European Union.
And what about the Turkish authorities? What do they have to say about all of this? They’re too busy canceling and banning conferences in their own country on this topic to even be worried about our resolutions in Congress. Conferences on the Armenian genocide–in Turkey! We’re almost there. We have to keep going forward towards the light.
Last week–a group of Turkish community leaders attacked an Armenian American college fraternity for "insulting Ataturk" on a flyer for a conference organized back in April. They’ve sued the participants in Turkish court and are claiming that the flyer which depicted Ataturk–the founder of the Republic of Turkey–sitting in front of "puppies" was a disgrace. I didn’t make that up. The article really said puppies. I’ve managed to get a hold of this flyer and can only say that other than it being a rather lame flyer for what appeared to have been an even lamer event–I don’t see any problems with it. It’s an image of Ataturk sitting in front of a corpse of an Armenian boy (not a puppy) which has been added to the photo via some computer program. The Turks suing the participants are mad as hell and are protesting in the streets of Ankara but still no sign of them on these Genocide resolution bills in Congress. No lobbyists (although I’m sure they’re out there) and no moronic testimonies about more Muslims dying than Armenia’s during World War I. If anyone can argue that we are not in a better position than we were in 2000–I would like to see them try. We’re almost there. We need to keep crawling.
We’ve been tortured–teased–stabbed in the back–lied to–treaded on–abused. You name it–we’ve endured it. But this is our time. This is when every Armenian American should stop what they’re doing and do the bare minimum to ensure the success of this moral and just cause. It may take us a while to get over the stench but we’re almost there. Just keep crawling.
Skeptik Sinikian’s coffee table book of photography "Images of Turkish Despots with Puppies" is due out in December. He is currently accepting preorders via email at [email protected] or place an order at his website at www.SkeptikSinikian.blogspot.com.