The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Friday, April 23, 2004


If there is such a thing as a Holocaust Industry then this would definitely be one of its bad industrial consequences: this Slate article. As long as the holocaust is genocide's equivalent of Coke, the one and only brand, it makes it hard to conceive of genocide without trains, Warsaw, gas chambers, stripy clothes, dogs on leashes, and Nazis in overcoats. Which is bad news for the Armenians, who were slaughtered in a hot country with swords. Why can't the Armenians get over it? Well, why can't the Jews? And why should they? And why should we?

P.S. I'm being completely hypocritical on this. I can't stand Americans who talk about the Irish potato famine as one of three things that define that country (the other two: Guinness and the irreproachability of the IRA's ethics). A national tragedy was left unspoken for as long as the English ran Dublin, which was outrageous. But few things get on my tits like an American who went to Ireland for one week of Spring break to visit the town which the great-grandparents left and who tell me that he or she can't forgive me for what a plague of weevils did to potatoes more than 150 years ago. Get over it! (And blame the Giffen good effect.)

P.P.S So, what then? I seem to want to insist that genocide is a tragedy for humanity. But that sounds like a Dukakis-like slogan ("I'd hope that if my daughter and wife were killed I wouldn't want their murderer dead" etc.") which ignores the emotional and blood-tie level where these acts exist. The genocide in Rwanda certainly didn't happen to me. So where do I get off saying that it's my tragedy too? Because if it's not, then, in a sense, the genocide has worked. The Nazi party in the 1930s is shocking not because it wanted to kill Jews, but because it wanted to kill Germans, for example. If you say, "The Germans always wanted to kill the Jews," then you're saying "The Jews weren't Germans," which is what the Nazis believed. What I want is the Turks to say "Yes, a slaughter happened and there is something seriously wrong with our self-definition as a country," and the Armenians to say, "Right, so, since we're all Turks together let's remember this so that it never happens again." I've probably made so many outrageous statements here. But fuck it, I'm going on vacation tomorrow, I'll clean up the rhetorical mess when I get back.