August 16, 2007

Thinking on a high-brow, hoity-toity level isn’t something I’m prone to do. I like having a discussion, but contentious debate isn’t one of my favorite things.

Before the people who know me jump on board for what might seem like a contradiction, I admit that I LOVE to push buttons and argue about lighter fare. Examples would be golf rules, technology options (what computer to buy, not shorting Microsoft stock), if pit bulls should all be made into paperweights and door stoppers—that sort of stuff.

I seldom will jump into a deep political argument, or try to convince someone that the French are really nice (they are), or even defend Hummer owners.

But ClownFace mentioned today that the Anti-Defamation League now has a group that is ANTI Anti-Defamation league. This group is angry at the League for ‘denying’ Armenian genocide a century ago.

From ClownFace’s blog….

The Boston Globe is reporting today on a controversy involving the well-respected Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Apparently, the Armenian community in the United States is angry that the ADL refuses to acknowledge mass killings near the turn of the last century as a genocide. As reported in the paper, ADL Executive Director, when asked if the killings were genocide, replied “I don’t know.”

I actually respect that response. This is a highly charged geopolitical topic. And I get the argument that vacillating does enormous harm. I understand what is happening in Darfur is terrible and horrifying. BUT, this issue is about a horrible thing that happened almost 100 years ago. It isn’t happening right now. Armenian lives aren’t at risk while leaders have intellectual and cowardly debates about the definition of genocide. And I think it is unreasonable for the Armenian community to organize against the ADL’s meaningful No Place for Hate program because of the organization’s ambivalence. Calling a “I don’t know” response “Genocide denial” puts the issue in a black/white realm, when it really is shades of gray.

My question then becomes one beyond semantics (which I ALWAYS love to argue about), and one of timeframe.

How long is long enough when faced with an abomination? Should we still be up in arms about Roman oppression of our family if we’ve descended from Julius Caesar?

Should we be angry at England for forcing our Puritan ancestors out of the country?

When do we stop being angry and aghast about slavery? And beyond that, is the slippery slope of reparations so rife with political correctness (and moral weight) that we never talk about it at all?

What about lepers?

And Jews re: the Holocaust?

Or Japanese and Pearl Harbor?

Where are we headed with Iraqi citizens…are we going to harbor hate for them for generations even though it’s an ancillary move because we can’t neatly put the terrorists into a box?

I think this entire group of situations has some personal responsibility aspect to it. There’s no way I’d even think of being angry at the oil company that fired my father when I was a toddler. Even though the situation caused us to mire in poverty for years, we overcame that.

OK, comparing the loss of a job to atrocities in Darfur is a stretch, but when has it been long enough to let something go?

Should Indians still be complaining about losing their land? Britain took over the entire world for a while and I don’t see people on every continent filing lawsuits about that. And we took more than a third of the U.S. from Mexicans. They aren’t filing to get their land back (as Stephen Colbert might say, they’re just climbing over the fence and moving back in).

So when has it been enough time? Maybe when thinking about Nazis and slaves and slaughter doesn’t make people want to act immediately and forcefully. Maybe when the attitudes have changed. Maybe when racism that’s rooted in specific acts has gone away.

For now, I’m happy I don’t have to argue those larger issues. I’ll stick to my McDonalds vs. Burger King spats.

More to come…