After ‘The Promise’: Keeping the Armenian Genocide in Mind

Now that the tremendous film The Promise has debuted and all the hype is out, we, as Jews and human beings, must not forget one thing:

To remember the Armenian genocide and those who perished in it.

It’s easy to forget things once a landmark has been established. A movie that for the first time in Hollywood history tackles the Armenian holocaust is out in theaters, and the wait for it is over. The 102nd anniversary of the genocide has passed, and we’re back to our day-to-day responsibilities.

But we have another responsibility, and that is to continue to keep the horror of this time top of mind, as well as educate others on this event and the evils surrounding it. We cannot just say: “Oh, let’s stop reminding ourselves about this. We must forge ahead.”

No. We don’t do that for the Jewish Holocaust. Likewise, we can’t afford to do that for the Armenian one.

Momentous occasions should not be the only periods in which a villainous occurrence should be memorialized. We must not relegate ourselves to a day of the week, an hour, a minute. All days should be so demarcated; all times must be marked. If we set a certain second to remember and others to forget, we are not doing our job. We contest anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers all the time. Why shouldn’t we do the same with those who deny the Armenian genocide?

There are a lot of them, and they are as misguided as they are dangerous. Their aim is to corrupt history, to rewrite people’s existences. That can’t happen. All the way we must go to eradicate ignorance by writing about the past, talking about it, debating those who question it. We can’t rest. We can’t ignore them.

Our obligation is to teach, as we are the ones who know. The evidence is condemning. Bringing it up frequently is the way to go. It is the best way to combat hate.

And hate of Armenians is as insidious as hatred of Jews. We two peoples have undergone the same atrocities. We have observed our families’ massacres. We have escaped to other lands. My family journeyed to America in the early part of the 20th century to avoid the anti-Semitic pogroms that were killing Jews in the Russia-Ukraine area. Many in the Armenian diaspora experienced a similar exodus.

Exodus. Does that remind you of something? It definitely should. For we are one and the same. Therefore, we must treat the histories of our Armenian brothers and sisters in the same vein. We are mishpacha: family. We’ve both gone through hell. Now we must embrace the duty of preventing it from happening again.

That is why I urge you, my Jewish siblings at heart, to remember the Armenian genocide and not stop after the major events pointing to it have passed. We must always remember, as we do our own Holocaust. We must never pass it by.

The Promise is our buoy. But our hands steer the ship. Let us travel together, continuing to keep the Armenian genocide on the tips of everyone’s tongues.

Only then will we find our rock. Only then will we achieve our goals.

Only then. And until then, I will speak as loudly as possible.

It’s the only thing I can do.

About the Author
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website. His views and opinions are his own.
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