Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

The French and Israeli parliaments should govern their own countries, and leave it to people without sin to conclude whether Turks are guilty of genocide

December 26, 2011

 

It’s much more satisfying to point out somebody else’s sins than own up to our own. Thus a year ago the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a non-binding resolution calling on US policy and President Barack Obama to refer formally to the World War I mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a “genocide.” No need to bother about American treatment of native Americans or of enslaved black Africans. The bill never went further, as sensible heads prevailed.

But Russia, France, and a dozen other nations have labeled the mass killing of Armenians a genocide. It’s more comfortable to fling the label at Turkey than to consider, for example France’s war on Algerians or Russia’s slaughter of Jews, Ukrainians, Chechnians, and even Russian serfs. And it plays well with ethnic Armenian voters in the Armenian diaspora, who outnumber actual Armenians by three to one.

Now the lower house of the French parliament has voted to make it a crime, punishable by one-year imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros ($60,000), to deny the so-called “Armenian genocide.” The French Senate is likely to take up the bill next year.

Israel too is getting into the act, now that its relations with Turkey have chilled. The Israeli Parliament just today held its first public debate on whether to declare Turkey guilty of genocide. (Actually the killings were perpetrated under the Ottoman Empire in 1915, prior to the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.) The Israeli National Security Council is trying to stop the Parliament from debating the issue in hopes that ties with Turkey can still be salvaged.

An ethicist who is also a Turkophile is conflicted. Was it genocide? (more…)

Which Constitution do you like: the real one or the edited one?

January 9, 2011

 

The new Republican leadership of the House of Representatives opened the new 112th Congress with a reading of the Constitution that they are sworn to support and defend. Some Members on both sides tried to make political hay out of the action, but for the most part it was a bipartisan effort that served to remind all of what they were there for.

But purposely the document they read wasn’t the Constitution of the United States, but an edited, modernized version. The original, housed in the Archives of the United States, spells out the method for apportioning congressional seats in Article I, Section 2:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

“Three fifths of all other Persons.” Those “other Persons” meant slaves. The formula was changed by the fourteenth amendment, which ended slavery and, eliminated the three-fifths language.

Why would anybody bowdlerize the Constitution? Simple—it’s to maintain the fiction that the founders had perfect foresight, and that their language—or their omissions—must be followed slavishly for all time. And so, for example, since they didn’t allow the federal government to require Americans to buy health insurance, then the health care law must be unconstitutional. And so, for another example (more…)

Tea Party rejects racism, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has “better things to do”

July 19, 2010

The Tea Party is a loosely organized group of people who favor generally conservative causes—lower taxes, smaller government, gun rights, and more immigration enforcement. But the party has attracted people to its rallies carrying signs comparing Obama to Hitler and telling him to “Go back to Kenya.” And members have spat epithets of faggot and nigger at congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC).

As a result the NAACP passed a resolution last week calling on Tea Party leaders “to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches.” (Several of those signs are shown here.) Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams, asked to tell racists “you’re not welcome” in the tea party, replied, “Racists have their own movement. It’s called the NAACP.”

Not satisfied to let things stand, Williams posted on his web site a letter supposedly written to Lincoln by “colored people” protesting emancipation and praising slavery.

While Williams defended his letter as satire, he has used ugly racial language regularly, especially in opposition to the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. He derided Mohammed as “the terrorist monkey god,” and called Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who backs building the mosque, a “Jewish Uncle Tom who would have turned rat on Anne Frank.” President Obama was an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug.” (more…)

Memo to Congress: Leave the Turks and Armenians alone to bury old enmities

March 4, 2010

Old hatreds die hard. Many Serbs still burn with hate for Muslims over the lost battle of Blackbird’s Field in Kosovo on June 15, 1389. In Great Britain there remains mutual hatred between Catholics and Protestants dating from atrocities of the 17th century. And many Armenian Americans still burn over the massacres and other deaths of 1,500,000 Armenians by the forces of the collapsing Ottoman Empire—the predecessor to modern Turkey in 1915. Turks dispute the number, claiming that 300,000 Armenians were killed and at least as many Turks as the empire descended into chaos and war.

It seems that civilization depends on our ability to put such horrors aside, to consign them to the ash heap of history. That ability is (more…)


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