One of the themes I explore in my book, It's Cold Here: A Memoir of Modern Turkey, is violence, and more specifically, what I would call righteous violence, meaning, the self-justifying kind. I do this by exploring the mentality of the holy warrior (and not only its most recent Islamic manifestation). But I also delve into other instances of mass violence.
Here, in part, is what I say after discussing the Armenian genocide, which began during World War I - 100 years ago this summer - and which the Republic of Turkey refuses to acknowledge:
The point to me is not that the Turks (or actually, the Ottomans) were guilty of barbaric acts. Rather, when I read the long history of humankind, including what happened yesterday, what is clear is that none of us is innocent: not the British, French, and Dutch who sometimes pretend their colonial legacies are too distant to be relevant; not the Arabs who suffer today under repressive and despotic regimes and successive invading forces, but who stole and enslaved as many as 18 million people between 650 and 1900; not the stateless and persecuted Kurds, who joined in the orgy of killing of the Armenians during the 1890s and again during World War I – and certainly not the Americans, who also do not do any better in coming to terms with their history than the Turks, or anyone. In this muddle only one thing is apparent: It is in the name of our own goodness that so much violence is committed in the world. Indeed, belief in our own goodness often smoothes the way.
I'm thinking of this now as I watch the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston unfold, and witnesses describe the "total carnage" of that horrific day.