Bob Harks’ letter (“Some people should learn to forgive,” May 1) presents a deeply flawed view of forgiveness and remembrance of nationally sponsored atrocities aimed at minorities.
He asserts that Armenians, as Christians, are hypocrites by failing to forgive the Turks for the genocide and thereby not following the teachings of Christ; and further, that that failure shows no love of “one’s fellow man or this country.”
I would ask him, and everyone who shares his view, to read the words of Jesus in the book of Luke: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Throughout the Bible we are exhorted to call out and stand against, to rebuke, injustice. Jesus further tells us that forgiveness follows only after repentance.
Harks, in support of his point, says that the children of Nazi Germany, who were taught to hate Jews, matured and grew out of that hatred. His analogy is not apt for Nazi Germany since, unlike the Armenians, it was the persecutor, not the persecuted.
The real lesson of that black historical episode is that the German nation acknowledged the enormity of the evil, of the sin, it perpetrated against the Jewish people and disavowed it. There was repentance.
For that reason, when Jews publicly commemorate and keep alive the memory of the Holocaust, as well they should, they do so without rebuking the current German state whose national policy prohibits Holocaust denial.
But for a moment, imagine a Germany that, as a matter of state policy, denies that the Holocaust ever took place and threatens with prison any of its citizens who say otherwise.
I would expect all Americans, not just Jews, who love their fellow man and love their country and the ideals for which it stands, not to embrace with arms of forgiveness such an imaginary German state, for, far from offering love of one’s fellow man, such forgiveness would demean the Holocaust’s untold suffering and the sacrifice of six million Jewish lives. But that imaginary German policy is exactly the actual policy of Turkey.
When Hark asserts that those of Armenian descent do not love this country because they feel deeply about the brutal Armenian genocide, and the Turkish insistent denial of it, he unjustly insults all Armenians, including those who have proved their love of country by joining the armed forces and putting their life on the line (in some instances losing it) in defense of the United States.
We are a nation made up of diverse ethnic cultural traditions and a variety of religious beliefs. They not only enrich those who share particular traditions and beliefs, but they enrich the entire nation.
A major factor that holds our diverse people together as one people is our devotion to a group of ideals that we believe are at the foundation of our nation; among them is social justice.
Every time we pledge our allegiance we affirm our belief in “liberty and justice for all.” Our ideals are not only an inspirational beacon to people around the world, but also the engine that forces change when we fall short.
It is an appeal to and being confronted by our ideals that led us to end the shameful blot of slavery, to extend basic civil rights that were for so long denied to women and black people, to acknowledge the shameful treatment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and on and on. They are a motive force that pulls us toward a more perfect union — toward a union that more perfectly reflects the ideals which we believe should define us as Americans. So when any American, regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief, stands against injustice — when he rebukes unrepentant inhumanity, regardless of where in it occurs in the world — he vindicates one of the basic values we believe defines us as the American people.
Justice, like liberty, requires eternal vigilance. When Jesus taught that repentance should be followed by forgiveness, he did not teach that it should be followed by amnesia.
Hitler provides a lesson as to why the remembrance and even the commemoration of large scale, unjust and inhumane events is part of the vigilance necessary to keep justice burning bright. When he was questioned as to how the world and history might view his final solution to the “Jewish problem,” he replied: “Who remembers the Armenian genocide?”
HARRY ZAVOS is a Glendale resident.