When I was a kid in the '30s, I have been told, I was a picky eater. I would leave food on my plate when I thought I was finished eating. Mother would say, "Think of the starving Armenians. They would like to have the food you are wasting. You can't leave the table until you finish your meal."
As far as I was concerned, I would have been happy, I thought, for the Armenians to have the food left on my plate, but I didn't know at that age where they lived or how to get my scraps to them. I couldn't figure out how eating all my food helped those poor, starving, homeless people. In the end, I cleaned my plate (and in time became overweight from the habit).
I may actually have known something about the Armenians then, but I didn't understand the history of what had been happening. I have since learned they are an ancient people, forming a nation about 900 B.C. It is reported that as a nation, they were the first to accept Christianity some time in the 4th century. Over the years, their nation has had a variety of boundaries. Today, it constitutes a land about the size of Maryland, located east of Turkey and north of Iran. Armenia's current population is about 3.5 million.
Before World War I, the Turkish people were the leaders of the Ottoman Empire (1389-1918), which included modern-day Iraq, Jordan, Syria among other Middle Eastern dependencies. The Ottomans were essentially a Muslim people. The Turks were "relocating" the Armenians, it was reported, so that between 600,000 and a million Armenians died or were left homeless. Other nations, including America, initiated relief efforts to feed, clothe and house the "starving Armenians." Turkey was defeated in WWI, and the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Turkey, interestingly, has become a prosperous, independent republic, participating responsibly in world issues and social justice.
Thinking of the physical and emotional development of my second grandson, Marco Thomas Cervantes, now three months old, my daughter Alice and I agreed she ought not employ similar "starving Armenian" methods to encourage good eating habits for her son.
The government and policies of Turkey changed dramatically as a result of sustained internal and external influences. Turkey has accommodated many modern, democratic standards of human rights and cooperative trade agreements between nations.
Japan is another major nation with centuries of totalitarian practices. Since World War II, Japan has become a leader among the democratic nations of the world, especially in the Far East, as a result of severe but respectful Western influences. It evidences strong standards of civility and human rights.
Being reminded of the tragic experiences of the Armenians, among others, and the more recent resolution of their respective social issues, I find hope that the current conflict in Iraq may yet evolve into a peaceful accommodation among the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Many Americans are still distraught about how our nation became involved with the Iraqi issues, primarily because of assumed "weapons of mass destruction." The fact of the day is that we are there and our men and women are seriously involved in military actions affecting the lives of many others. The near future is critical to America's success and that of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi factions are on the threshold of forming a government that may in their own unique way work to their mutual benefit. It seems to me we have to see that through, as long as there is significant hope of success. The success would be a great step forward away from despotism and a great benefit to the future of peaceful nations everywhere.
My self-interest is that improved relations among peoples of the world now may keep both my grandsons from being in harm's way as defenders of liberty and self-fulfillment in the future. Knowing more about Iraq and its possible success with a new government is something like knowing more about the Armenians than only that they were starving and homeless.