BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Armenians have two recent victories to celebrate, the Starbucks snafu and toppling of a proposed Ataturk statue in the City of Carson before it was even erected.
I’m convinced the first example was an honest mistake born of ignorance. But the second one, that’s another story. That statue project has been in the mill for a few years, and is part of an ongoing effort by Turkey and Turks living in the U.S. to sanitize that country’s murderous history, and along with that, deny and bury any talk of the Armenian Genocide.
If there was any doubt of this intent, one need only remember the joint Aliev-Erdogan mutual-assistance-through-deceit pledge made back in September, 2014. Turkey would help slam Armenia in the context of the Gharapagh issue, and Azerbaijan would promote Genocide denial.
On this front, the millions of dollars these two countries have spent have been largely for naught. Their “success” has been largely limited to Washington D.C. where the cynical, utterly immoral calculus of international relations has allowed them to dupe all three branches of the U.S. federal government.
On the local level, duplicitous Dick Gephardt’s consulting firm’s contract with the City of Los Angeles has recently been dumped because of his denialist activities. In Colorado and New Hampshire (only the most recent examples), attempts to pass pro-Azerbaijan resolutions in state legislatures have failed repeatedly. Since many of these states have miniscule Armenian communities—meaning no votes and no money for politicians, I have to believe that ultimately those elected officials acted out of a sense of decency and truth. That’s heartening.
But two questions have to be asked, one from the Turkish side and the other from the Armenian. For the citizens of Turkey, is all this money from government coffers worth spending? Even if a given Turk is a denier, s/he’s got to be pondering this expense. And, an article in “Al-Monitor”, a Turkish on-line multi-lingual publication implicitly asks this question after citing the Los Angeles and Starbucks examples, and describing Turks’ (in Turkey) reactions.
The piece explains that due to an incorrect translation, people in Turkey thought Armenians were objecting to a Turkish flag. As a result, we were treated to the laughable scene of police being dispatched to hang Turkish flags on Starbucks stores in Adana. Even more telling, when a few days later the Khojali hoax was being “commemorated” in Turkey, racist banners appeared in some Turkish cities. One group named “Genç Atsizlar” hung a banner that read “We celebrate the 100th anniversary of cleansing our country from Armenians. We are proud of our honorable ancestors.” That’s a very interesting way of confessing to the Genocide, don’t you think?
To the extent that these events and actions are connected, Turkey’s incessant propaganda campaign, both internal and external, is clearly backfiring. Nevertheless, the question on Armenians’ minds should be: “how do we stop being trapped by Turkey-funded propaganda assaults into fighting pointless micro-battles?” No matter how successful we are at putting out these “fires” set by Turkish “pyromaniacs”, they are still a waste of time and energy, although they do provide the fringe benefit of publicizing our cause. With this in mind, the topic of my piece last week, Turkish commercial penetration in the U.S., is something we must be alert to. Just think, what average Joe is likely to believe that Turks are capable of genocide when all s/he knows about Turkey is the yummy food (stolen cuisine) at the neighborhood “Turkish” restaurant served by a cute Turkish youngster? Or, when the bathrobe s/he uses and loves is Turkish-made? Or, the ships bringing various goods to American ports are Turkish built?
We must proactively set the agenda, and be sure that an overwhelming majority of our nation is on board with that agenda. We have done, and continue to do this every time we introduce congressional/parliamentary initiatives (laws, resolutions, investigations, etc.). But this is limited and limiting. Our full agenda must become an item of international discussions and popular movements in non-Armenian settings.