By Taleen Mardirossian
You can count on two things when bad news is dispersed in my family; synchronized gasps and my grandmother’s voice, “Asdvads tushnameeyis chee tsutsuneh.” If someone has been diagnosed with cancer, or a life has ended prematurely, or an elder is placed in a retirement home, God forbid, my grandmother makes a plea to God to save everyone, even her enemies, from whatever tragedy has taken place. One time when I was young, I confronted her, “What about the Turks?” They had, in fact, killed our ancestors and stolen our lands, and based on the morals instilled in my household, good people didn’t kill, hate, or steal, so the Turks couldn’t possibly be good people. And so I wondered if her wishes to God extended to them too, or if they had earned themselves a category far worse than “enemy”. Being an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth kind of person, her response surprised me, “Even the Turks.” So I imagined, there must be some good ones if my grandmother prays for them too.
Unfortunately, my first encounter with a Turk was not a good one and the ignorance, hatred, and utter disrespect I experienced made me question why my grandmother was praying for people who wished nothing but the worst upon us. After being prey to a merciless predator for so long, one would imagine that almost a century later, hatred would be replaced with remorse and empathy. But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; or so I once believed. Among the very short list of people who have earned my utmost respect is the name of a Turk, Taner Akçam. I am not oblivious to the fact that there are Turks who acknowledge the Genocide and have even risked their lives for the sake of publicly making it known to their very democratic government. But it always seemed as though this was a rarity since I had never come into contact with a Turk who accepted the wrongdoings of their predecessors or wished Armenians well. That is, until now.
After painting the perfect shade of pale pink polish on my nails, I carefully opened my laptop, and sorted through the unread messages in my inbox, while waiting for my nails to dry. And there it was, a response to one of my previous posts, from an unfamiliar name that I recognized as being Turkish. Clicking on the name, I already knew exactly what this was, another unpleasant message from a Turk. The entire message was written in Turkish so I didn’t understand any of it, none but one word, Ermeni, meaning Armenian. I instantly knew I was being attacked for not only being Armenian, but for expressing my thoughts about a genocide that, apparently, never occurred. To be quite frank, I’ve never cared about the opinions of others, and this was no exception. I didn’t know what these words meant and I really didn’t care to find out so I closed the screen, slipped on my Toms, and went about my day without giving it a second thought. The following morning, my dad said something in Turkish.
“Dad that reminds me, someone from Istanbul sent a message.”
“I don’t know. Probably talking shit, what else?”
“Let me see it,” he responded nonchalantly.
My dad is a man of a million remarkable qualities, one of them being his ability to maintain a calm demeanor, even in the midst of ferocity. Being my father’s daughter, I knew just by peering into his eyes that he was angry. As we entered our favorite restaurant, the hostess escorted us to our table as I fumbled for my phone in my large bag, overfilled with everything from highlighters to pepper spray. I handed my phone over to my dad, and watched his facial expression change as he read those Turkish words. Seconds later, he gave me the “Really Taleen?” look. I was confused and he could tell. He then started reading the message out loud in Turkish, before finally translating.
“I will forever be with you Armenians, until the end. Signed, with love always.”
Wait, what? If it weren’t for the smile on his face, I would have thought that this was a really bad joke. Even after a minute of trying to process this information, I still didn’t know what to think so I handed the phone back to my dad, demanding that he read it a second time, at which point, he was offended that I was questioning his fluency in Turkish. But there’s no way.
I automatically placed you in the “brainwashed” category without even understanding the meaning of your words. I allowed the actions of a few Turks to taint the good intentions of another. I admire you for seeking your own truth, when buying the one your government tried to sell you was a cheaper option. I now realize that your kind and loving words should not have come as a surprise. After all, my grandmother has been praying for you all of these years.