Why Biden’s recognition of the Armenian genocide is so essential to creating American life essential
One term often used to describe Donald Trump’s behavior during his unfortunate and hateful presidency was “unprecedented”.
And it wasn’t meant in a positive way.
Indeed, Trump’s disregard for political norms, his overt racism and sexism and general hatred, his naked abuse of the presidency to enrich himself and his family and take revenge on his political enemies, his incessant lies, attacks on the free press and even more, were behaviors that in their extremities and Flagranz deserved the descriptor “unprecedented”.
As I have regularly recorded in PoliticusUsa for the past four years, Trump’s presidency has been an ongoing genocide attempt on multiple levels, an assault on human life itself. From the apparent enabling of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people in northeast Syria in October 2019, to the detention of children at the border to his failure to respond to or even acknowledge the coronavirus pandemic, while over 500,000 Americans died. Given his racist rhetoric, which motivated mass shootings and, overall, confirmed the view that the lives of people with color just doesn’t matter, Trump’s presidency could certainly be characterized as a concerted effort to undermine human life as a genocidal mission.
Trump’s rush to execute death row inmates as his term neared the end of his term is an example of the work his murderous government has done to cement his legacy, as Joanna Walters wrote in The Guardian: “As the most prolific execution president in over 130 years.”
As I have documented (here, here, and here), many of Trump’s behaviors and policies certainly fall under the defined practices of genocide set out in the 1948 United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
When President Joseph Biden officially declared the mass slaughter of the Armenians by the Turks in 1915 during the fall of the Ottoman Empire to be genocide last week, he not only gave the adjective “unprecedented” a new and positive connotation, but also set an important course for one Presidency whose guiding principle seems to be to affirm and support life, not to spread the traffic in death and the hatred that makes murderous behavior possible.
For fear of straining relations with the Turkish government, previous presidents remained silent when it came to calling the Turkish massacre of 1.5 million Armenians genocide, including Barack Obama, whose ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, one 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning book entitled A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, which is an in-depth study of the Armenian Genocide.
We must acknowledge that Biden’s unprecedented declaration has as much to do with his domestic agenda of supporting American life and making sure it matters as it does with his foreign policy and efforts to restore America’s global character to a basic moral compass do.
As Jason Easley wrote in his coverage of Biden’s official naming of the Armenian genocide, “Americans could see a very special presidency unfolding before our eyes.”
It is important to recognize that the genocidal rhetoric Trump used on the border between Syria and Turkey, which legitimized the removal and even extermination of the Kurds in 2019, was not really any different from the rhetoric he used in his domestic politics in relation to the southern border to validate an equally genocidal behavior.
When Trump spoke of people trying to immigrate to the United States across the southern border, he notoriously referred to them as “criminals” and “racists” and referred to these “caravans” of people fleeing mass violence and seeking asylum as “invasions “or” Infestation. “He used a similar language to talk about communities at home and abroad where people of color lived, calling Baltimore” rat and rodent chaos “and Haiti and African nations” crap. “
This language turns these groups of people, in fact entire nations of people, into problems that need to be “resolved”. Just as Trump insisted that “Turkey, to be honest” had “a legitimate problem” on the border with “terrorists” and “a lot of people there who couldn’t have it” so “they have it cleaned up.” had to “out,” he said of people of color in our inner cities, people of color from the south who want to legally enter the US, and people of color in countries abroad using the same language. They all represent a “legitimate problem” that needs to be “fixed”.
And of course, he inspired and mobilized his racist army, even if he was not engaged in politics, as we saw in both the mass shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue and in El Paso. In both cases, the shooters used Trump’s language of “invasion” to rationalize the mass murders of Jewish people and Mexicans.
Biden’s naming of the Armenian genocide signals his willingness to grapple with history and reality not only around the world but also in the United States, where the nation is struggling to address – and atone for – its own violent history of racism and genocide.
If the nation really wants to “better rebuild,” it must face the genocide on which it was built.
His appointment of Deb Haaland as first Native American Secretary of the Interior, including the appointment of colored people and people from other historically marginalized groups to his cabinet and other high-ranking positions, signals this willingness to grapple with America’s past in order to create something human America resetting its foundation and realizing its principles of justice.
At the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Haaland went straight to America’s violent history of genocide and colonization. Before that moment, when was the last time genocide was discussed in a Democratic Congress?
Overall, we can hope that Biden signals genocide, a life-after-death presidency.
We can see that already. While Trump has policies that destroy the environment and drive more people into poverty, Biden has policies that aim to create a life-sustaining environment, raise wages to livable levels, and meet human needs.
While Trump ignored the pandemic and called it a joke, Biden has actually implemented a nation strategy and is now trying to help nations around the world.
While Trump and Republicans seek to deny transgender people rights, Biden has sought to ensure their civil rights and access to health care.
We could go on.
But the point is that where Trump’s policies promoted death, Biden affirmed life in his policies and in unprecedented ways promoted and challenged genocide.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a Chicago state university. A longtime progressive voice, he has published numerous academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, and the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.