100 Year Old Lessons

Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial, Memorial Park, Pasadena

Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial, Memorial Park, Pasadena

Today I honor all Armenians lives taken and victimized by the genocide a century ago. I pray that we learn from history and teach our children by example that all lives matter.

A century ago Turks began a campaign against the local Armenian population. After 100 years of grieving, victims still wait for an adequate government response or even some acceptance of responsibility. For a century the official response has been more denial than remorse. Sadly this story is not unique. Those behind genocide almost always deny wrongdoing and respond with arguments and justification instead of justice. Our own American history is one such example. This nation was founded on the displacement and murder of the indigenous population and then the oppression of a African population. We have failed as a nation to adequately address the atrocities to this day. How does this pattern keep recurring throughout history? The one common thread in all such stories is that ugly thread of racism and superiority. Whether based on ethnicity, faith or gender the stories always paint one group as inferior by spreading lies and ignorance about them. In our own example the “inferior” is dehumanized to the point that peace officers entrusted with their safety continue killing them and justifying their murders. This racist oppression happens in Baltimore and Charleston and Ferguson and NYC. This happened in Bosnia and it happens in Gaza. It happened to Jews more to Armenians. We have so many sad lessons that stand as testaments to humanity’s inability to learn and improve from our mistakes.

On this centennial anniversary we must honor the lives lost by working to eradicate the discrimination and hate that make genocide possible. We have opportunities accross this country to fight discrimination. There are still neighborhoods in America where the state invests heavily in incarceration and where the path to prison is much wider and more accessible than the narrow path to college. There are still communities that are routinely victimized by local law enforcement. Today not all American lives matter. They do on paper but not in truth. At some point we have to be the change.

To stop this each of us must play a role. We have to teach our children, parents and neighbors the lessons of history whenever we see hate rear its ugly head. My local effort to combat hate is to engage my own local community and dispel ignorance around Islam and Muslims. I engage local communities and government to make sure I provide them a point of reference to counter the anti-Muslim narrative. I’ve taken an active role with our Mayor’s Annual Prayer Breakfast benefit for a local Pasadena food bank & women’s shelter. My wife will deliver the Muslim prayer at the event in solidarity with other local faith leaders. (Prayer Breakfast Tickets & info). I know that these personal interactions are the most effective way to combat ignorance and prevent stereotypes from filling a void. I work to fill the Arab/Muslim/Egyptian/North African-American knowledge void by speaking my mind as honestly as I can and by proudly representing myself. I also advocate for minorities in my own community around issues of police misconduct, violence and injustice in the courts.

These are just one side of the solution, we also need responsible media and government to prevent the spread of lies and propaganda. A wealthy propaganda machine and ignorant leadership can easily overpower minority voices as we’ve seen in Germany and Turkey before. We must always check that propaganda at the door and resist the temptation of lazy stereotypes. This tired pattern of violence against minorities is like series of wounds that leave deep, thick scars on the face of humanity making it nearly unrecognizable. This cycle can only stop when we teach all children and neighbors by example that all lives matter equally. This effort to combat ignorance is how we honor all of our victims until there are no more.