All (well, maybe not all, but we in the media exaggerate, sometimes) the music sites have headlines this Saturday afternoon referring to System of a Down singer Serj Tankian.
Great, I thought. New music? Outrageous quote? He’s switching gender and running for governor? (which isn’t a bad thing, per se, unless you’re a Trump-loving decathlete).
No. Tankian wanted to thank President Joe Biden. For telling the truth.
This is what our perception has come to: News is made when someone famous thanks someone famous for telling the truth.
OK, you might say … whose truth? Which network are we watching?
How about THE truth?
Biden came out Friday and officially recognized that the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against Armenians in 1915. There’s probably a joke in there about Uncle Joe actually being alive when it happened, but now’s not the time.
It’s a big deal because it’s something other presidents, including Biden’s former boss Barack Obamacare, wouldn’t do while in office. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire ran what we now call Turkey. Now we also call it a delicate part of the world, where Turkey is our ally (for the most part) among a lot of other countries who don’t like us.
So we don’t usually say to Turkey, “Hey, you remember that time your predecessors slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians?”
I mean, it was a while ago. But it happened. And it wasn’t that long ago.
“Genocide” isn’t just a Judas Priest song. It essentially means wiping another group from the planet because you don’t like their ethnicity, religion, color … whatever. It’s a heavy accusation, to be sure.
Tankian, who was born in Lebanon and is a politically active Armenian, spoke up and it made the news.
“Thank you to President Joe Biden for properly recognizing the #ArmenianGenocide today,” Tankian wrote on Instagram. “This is extremely important but only a milestone towards the long road of justice ahead with Turkey and its ancestors.”
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Tankian’s grandparents got lucky and fled the purge in time. That’s why he’s alive to thank Biden. Because–and apparently it still needs saying–people alive today are still affected by long-ago tragedy.
“Today, I will say thank you to the US and all those who have fought hard for this statement over the years,” Tankian wrote.
They spent years fighting “hard” for … a statement.
How incredibly sad.
I’m not going to play historian and won’t trivialize so much horrific suffering by purposely over-simplifying, but Turkey knows it was genocide. Turkey knows we know they know we know it was genocide. Killing 1.5 million humans doesn’t fall under “accident” or “bad decision.”
I realize diplomacy requires delicacy. But dodging truth to the point of entire countries running around with their fingers in their ears is stupid. Pretending things didn’t happen is stupid. Progress gets bogged down. And, to anyone not living in a cave the past few years, we need to make a lot of progress in a lot of areas. John Lennon was right. We need a lot more truth.
Hopefully it won’t be long until the truth doesn’t make massive headlines … or musicians thanking someone for saying so won’t be a big deal.
Follow music critic Tony Hicks at Twitter.com/TonyBaloney1967.