Erdogan’s bad-faith recognition of the Native American Genocide
As the saying goes, “even a broken clock is right twice a day.” While the broken clock of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was right when he proposed recognizing the genocide of Native Americans at the hands of the United States, his words did not stem from a deep-seated desire for justice: in fact, quite the opposite, as they are further evidence of Erdogan’s authoritarian worldview.
Erdogan’s statements were intended as a form of retaliation against a resolution by the United States Congress to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. Previously, the U.S. Government had not officially recognized the atrocities that led to an estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Turkish state between 1914 and 1923. The Turkish government has long denied the reality of the atrocities and is vociferously bellicose to any government that seeks to commemorate the event. It is from this mindset of defensive reactionaryism that Erdogan’s threat — where he exploits the inter-generational pain of an oppressed people as if it were a bargaining chip — was born.
While the total death toll of the indigenous people who populated the territories that are now the United States is incalculable, there is no denying that the colonization and westward expansion of the American continent by the United States government — particularly its cavalry divisions — was accompanied by atrocities duly worthy of the moniker genocide.
From the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which legalized the forcible relocation of Native populations from their lands, to the Trail of Tears, where U.S. forces marched various indigenous tribes hundreds of miles, depriving them of basic necessities (an estimated 6,000 died), to any of the other countless mass-killings committed at the hands of U.S. forces, the United States ethnically cleansed an entire continent in order to make space for its euro-descendant inhabitants. While Erdogan’s description of history comes from a place of bad faith, it is undoubtedly accurate.
Yet neither historical accuracy nor the plight of victimized Native Americans is the inspiration for Erdogan’s remarks. His attempt to use the legacy of genocide victims, and tangentially, the long struggle for justice that their their descendants have endured, as a political cudgel is a further illustration of his contemptible worldview: Erdogan perceives humanity in a system of hierarchies, where “the higher classes” (in his opinion, Americans and Turks) are under no obligation to respect the most basic human rights and decency of the “lower classes” (Natives and Armenians).
Through this lens, Erdogan views an objectively just act — his government recognizing the systemic slaughter of a group of people — as a negative, because it would require an admission that those he perceives as members of a “lower-class” are due the same rights and decency as he and the rest of the “higher-class” members. His concern for the marginalized groups exists only when it behooves him, such as wielding their victimization as an international cudgel.
It is not a new revelation that Erdogan interprets society as a collection of groups where the “higher” ones are worthy of rights and dignity, while the “lower” ones are not. He has repeatedly espoused that women are not equal to men, for example. His recognition of their struggle only when it benefits him shows that Erdogan considers Native Americans members of the subjacent class, and therefore unworthy of even the most basic human decency, such as the recognition of their suffering at the hands of state-sponsored genocide. The despicableness of such a belief cannot be overstated.
Erdogan’s comments on the experience of past and present Native Americans should not only not earn him praise, but they should also be sternly reciprocated with condemnation for attempting to exploit the inter-generational struggle of an oppressed people as if it were a bargaining chip: he has no sympathy for justice, only an interest in preserving the heinous worldview that he is a member of a group with superiority over others.
BY: Joe Mayall
Joe Mayall is an American writer from Boston, MA. While his political writing concentrates on foreign policy, he covers combat sports and enternainment as well.
Follow him on Twitter at @joemayall.
Written exclusively for News About Turkey (NAT)
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