Monday, January 22, 2007

A Step In The Right Direction

Wide is the gap, and narrow are the minds that wish to keep it that way. Long-standing bitter rivalries still exist today and in some circles, they demonstrate that there isn't a lot of hope that long feuds can be put to rest, very easily.

China and Japan are two nations that have very little love for each other. They are both Asians and have similar, and yet in some ways, very different cultures and value systems. Yet they would not give a dime for each other. Arabs and Israel have their differences and it's no secret that this one is even more bitter and hostile. Sadly we all have to admit there are more instances of grudge relationships, than we really would like to see.

Take the Turks and the Armenians, for example. This one has been a real doozy. This goes a long way back and still brings out resentment and hostility in the meekest of people that live in either of these two countries. It's definitely a mess and things didn't look to good the other day, when Hrant Dink was killed.

But this story in the IHT caught my eye, today.

ISTANBUL: Armenian spiritual and political figures from around the world on Monday accepted an extraordinary invitation from Turkey to attend the funeral of the founder of an Armenian- Turkish newspaper, Hrant Dink, who was killed outside his office Friday, officials said Monday.

The slaying has prompted an outburst of public demonstrations and has begun to suggest a warming of ties after a near century of animosity between Turks and Armenians.

Armenia is to send a deputy foreign minister to the funeral, Arman Kirakossian. The archbishop of the Armenian Church of America, Khajag Barsamyan, also accepted the government's invitation.

Earlier, the Armenian defense minister, Serzh Sarkisyan, called for improved relations so that Armenia could "establish ties with Turkey with no preconditions," according to the Turkish news channel NTV.


Little things like this are things that can be used to start a dialogue, which can always lead to an understanding. But if I may stress so, it can only happen if the parties can bury self-interests, preconceived notions, and deeply embedded values and prejudices that beget mistrust, hostility, and even violence.

Unfortunately, not everyone can accept this way of thinking as a valid alternative to hate and violence. Some even invent stories and advance them with little or no proof.

Sevket Kazan, Deputy of the Saadet Party (SP) of Turkey, argued that the CIA and Mossad planned and organised the murder against the Armenian Turkish journalist Hrant Dink.


It's not overly surprising that the Mossad and CIA cards are being played so early. They often get pulled out by unreasonable people.

But let's consider something here. No one in their right mind can believe that the Mossad and CIA has not had their hands into some unsavory stuff, that would be the ultimate indicator that someone is quite naive, to say the least. But, when the first inclination is to accuse without evidence, we have problems. When we advance theories that are not sound, we see escalation of tensions and sometimes war.

Now it's a pretty safe bet that as a result of this accusation, people who already are biased are going to be even more so and no one or nothing will likely convince them differently. But the real issue is, those that are struggling to get at the truth, those that sit on the fence and are easily influenced, can be (and sometimes are) deceived into adopting these kinds of falsehoods and internalize them as factual information. In fact it happens so much, once they are indoctrinated, they are not easily swayed into any sense of reality or truth.

But be that as it may, this situation in Turkey could be a burning fuse just waiting to explode, as is evidenced by the long history and the recent killing of Dank. So in this situation, we see Mr. Kazan pouring fuel on the fire to make the fuse burn faster. We also see those that are attempting to reach out and show some display of good-will, by allowing Armenians to attend Mr Dank's funeral. Which is to say, they are trying to slow the fuse down.

For this reason, I wish to commend those responsible for this effort to embrace their long-time adversaries (even if it is minimally so) and wholly encourage them to make the best of this situation. It also my hope that they can look past old patterns of hostile behavior and look to the future, instead of licking old wounds and picking their scabs. Both sides can use this as a stepping stone for a better understanding and hopefully start the journey towards some measure of forgiveness and reconciliation.

That's a tall order, I know. But this is a good start.

What a world we could live in, if this were the model used by all old adversaries.

14 comments:

Anonim said...

LA, thanks for the wide angle from which you try to look at this. Conspiracy theories abound about this murder in Turkey. My sense is, Sevket Kazan's type theories are marginal, and ultra-nationalism is on the chopping block instead. Not because of a direct underground tie readily uncovered, but because of the way people like Hrant Dink have been vilified and made into targets by rabid practitioners of hate. Citizens at large are understanding this better by the day although apologists are not likely to give up anytime soon. There is this group of nationalist lawyers, for example, who were the force behind various recent prosecutions that mystify the Westerners (of Orhan Pamuk for example). I read at least one newspaper columnist calling for this group to be taken to court under the charge of inciting hatred and violence. That may be a long shot legally speaking, but more seriously, the magnifying glass is on Article 301 of the penal code (that infamous "insulting Turkishness" monster of a law), based on which this group brought court charges against influential intellectuals. There is a real chance that the present government can make good of this sad murder by using the public outrage it created to propel the legal reform movement further. The Speaker of the Parliament, I heard, has already suggested dropping or modifying Article 301 as an immediate possibility. A bit too late, but not too little from my Turkish perspective.

Greg said...

If it's possible for the Turks and Armenians to reconcile, for the Turks and Greeks to reconcile, for Sunnis & Shia to reconcile, maybe there is hope for the Democrats and Republicans to reconcile!

Mary Ellen said...

Greg

...or maybe the Cubs and the White Sox will reconcile. Nah!!!!

LA: Great post, but I have to leave and can't comment until later. I'll be back (Arnold Schwartzenegger voice).

Mary Ellen said...

anonim

I don't understand that Article 301 law. What is "Turkishness"?

Anonim said...

ME, perplexed? I don't blame you.

If your question was literal, check wiki out.

FYI, here is a pretty well-rounded Daily Star (Lebanon) article by Hugh Pope:
The Turkish curse after a death in Istanbul

Anonim said...

ME, if you had a similar "insulting Americanness" law, for example, you could presumably prosecute me for my objections to the Iraq war and criticism of Bush. I might get away perhaps b/c I watch my language somewhat, but SuperFrenchie and most people who write on his blog wouldn't stand a chance: they'd be in jail in no time. The more visible and influential such objectors are, the more likely will their prosecution be. I guess, that historian/author who found and wrote about Jefferson's descendents from a slave girl would be in danger, too.

Mary Ellen said...

Thanks anonim!

So, it takes away the right to free speech, especially if that speech in any form says anything contrary to the government? I'm sure there is more to it than that, but that seems to be the crux of it.

I appreciate the link to Wiki.

Although, the attempt at a sort of reconciliation by inviting the Armenian spiritual and political figures is a great gesture, I just wonder if it will be an opening for more killings and further damaging any relations.

So, it is yet to be determined if this 17 year old kid acted alone? I assume there will be further investigations. I'll keep looking for more info on this, it's really interesting.

Anonim said...

ME, it doesn't quite take away free speech, but threatens it. I don't know which is worse. Considering the vague nature of Turkishness and how it can be insulted, the application of the law can only be artitrary, depending on what a prosecutor or other official is offended by at a given time. (I am actually embarrassed by having to explain this crap. But something interesting here: many anti-Turkey circles love to bash using such absurdities and abuses; Kurds for example; I just read an article which mentioned a Northern Iraqi Kurdish intellectual sentenced to 30 years for "denigrating the cause" for criticizing NI Kurdish administration for their discriminatory practices against Arabs and Turkoman. All in all, it could be said to be an irritable mindset prevalent in the wider region.)

Anonim said...

"... bash using ..." should have read "... bash us using ..." There are other flaws of language also, but I'm letting them slip.

Also, the funeral is over already. It was uneventful if you don't count the size of the procession. I read estimates from 50 to 100 thousand people attending.

LASunsett said...

Greg,

//maybe there is hope for the Democrats and Republicans to reconcile!//

I thought you were agnostic. Believing in miracles now, are we?

LASunsett said...

Anonim,

//thanks for the wide angle from which you try to look at this.//

Don't I always? (Never mind, don't answer that)

;)

LASunsett said...

ME,

//I appreciate the link to Wiki.//

I love wiki only for the purpose of telling a quick story about something. I always say, however, that Wiki can me altered by people that have agendas. I always use caution with them.

PS-Anonim is as good a source as Wiki on Turkish affairs. Like I do sometimes, he is taking a short cut.

;)

Mary Ellen said...

LA

I've already proved that miracles exist...I'm on a blog with a totally different political leaning than me, and I haven't been kicked off...yet.

Are you going to do a post about the President's speech tonight? I watched the whole thing without throwing up, but that's because I was on another blog at the time...a liberal blog.

Anonim said...

I found Bush's SoU somewhat bland, unexciting. Maybe last week's weak & unconvincing Iraq speech took the heat out of it. Don't know. Not in the mood to criticize. One thing: is he hoping to rekindle the "save the social security system" movement? Also, at one point, the camera caught Lee Hamilton with a sustained smirk on his face.