Sunday, April 12, 2015

Too Serious For Discussion

My stance on recognizing Turkey's genocide of the Armenians at the turn of the 20th century is pretty straight-forward: do it. Turkey is embarrassing itself far more by throwing a temper tantrum anytime anyone acknowledges historical fact than it would be if it actually decided to reckon with its past in an honest and forthright manner. Turkey needs to grow up, and all of us have an obligation to the truth. This isn't a tough call.

So for the most part, Turkey's latest fit over this issue -- stemming from Pope Francis' commemoration of the genocide -- is not particularly interesting. I note it here only to add to a growing collection I've noticed regarding how people use "moral seriousness" as a defensive move against moral critique:
“I don’t support the word genocide being used by a great religious figure who has many followers,” said Mucahit Yucedal, 25. “Genocide is a serious allegation.”
Now genocide is a serious allegation. But that, on its own, is no reason for Pope Francis to keep silent. If anything, it is more imperative that the Pope break through the silence that has emerged around this issue so that the victims can be properly remembered. But it is and remains interesting how people routinely argue that because an allegation is "serious", it should not be made at all.

1 comment:

EW said...

As a lawyer, I imagine you've had occasion to counsel your clients, "Everything you say should be true -- but not everything that is true needs to be said."

I tend toward secularism: I generally favor de-mystifying language, removing the suggestion that a word has magic power. Rather, I regard words as tools: you pick your task, then you pick the tools that will aid you in that task.

I oppose anyone suppressing the facts about the conflict that led to the deaths of Armenians in 1815. But I'm less hung up about the characterization of those facts -- unless we are using words that actually have some unusual power. In sum, if the Pope proposes that we start proceedings in The Hague to prosecute someone for the crime of genocide, then it makes sense to refer specifically to that crime.

So, is that the Pope's goal?

Again, words are tools: Pick your task, then pick the tools that help you achieve your task. Without knowing the task, I can't really evaluate the selection of tools.