Yegparian: Turn, Turn, Turn

It’s not often I turn to musical references to make my arguments. In this case, it’s a biblically based song, which is an even more improbable reference.

You probably recognized the song by name based on the title of this piece. The full name of the song is “Turn, Turn, Turn: To Everything There Is a Season” by Pete Seeger, the famed folk singer/musician and social activist who died at 95 in Jan. 2014. He wrote the song some 60 years ago and it has been sung by many groups. You’ve most likely to have heard the version by The Byrds. The lyrics are almost entirely lifted from the King James version (1611) of the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. They are slightly modified with the “turn, turn, turn” refrain and plea for world peace at the end of the song.

The lyrics are almost entirely lifted from the King James version (1611) of the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

The lyrics follow:

“To everything – turn, turn, turn;
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together
To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing
To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late!”

For the purposes of this discussion, the original (although some scholars seem to think this part of the Bible was added in the third century AD), biblical meaning is relevant—that there’s a time and place for everything.

Let’s say it’s your father’s (or other family member’s) funeral, “dareleetz”, or other opportunity to remember, honor, or reflect on that person’s life. On that day, you’re probably not going to speak about you best friend’s, or anyone else’s, loved one’s death and life, no matter how great that other person was. Right?

We, as a community, seem to be getting confronted with an analogous situation. It has happened twice that I am aware of in the Los Angeles area, so I cannot help but assume that it is happening with some frequency elsewhere, too. A legislative/governmental/elected body is approached to issue a statement/proclamation/resolution about the Armenian Genocide on or around April 24. Suddenly, the issue is raised that we should be honoring all victims of genocide or noting many more, if not all, known genocides. For clarity and avoidance of any misunderstandings, I am not suggesting malign intent or impugning the well-meaning premises of those who make such proposals.

On the surface of this, there’s nothing wrong with it. How could any human being with a shred of decency disagree? But if we look just one layer deeper, numerous questions arise. Why did that just pop up? Where was the body, or the individual raising the issue, on Columbus Day when Native Americans memorialize the multi-century genocide that was set off in 1492? Why didn’t s/he or they do something for the Jewish Holocaust’s annual Days of Remembrance? Where were they on Aug. 7 when the Assyrian Genocide is marked? What did they do for Rwanda or Darfur or Biafra or… you get the idea.

I am not advocating exclusivity. Neither am I suggesting we approach this the way some groups do the Holocaust, claiming a “uniqueness” applies to our genocide. It seems simple to me. If a group approaches a governmental body or official with a request to address an issue that needs attention, they are not often told that the only way to address that issue is to couple it to every other related issue. If the question at hand is a current malaria epidemic, the petitioner probably would not be told that every other disease must be addressed simultaneously. If the matter is the invasive Asian carp and the damage it is wreaking in the Mississippi River, no one would argue that this question must be dealt with by the same legislation as for the dealing with non-native trout introduced to the waters of Yellowstone Park. Addressing tobacco-smoking cessation would not be coupled with methamphetamine addiction.

We may have, over the years, contributed to this problem by citing and recognizing other instances of genocide during our governmental commemorative activities. I can easily imagine how this might create an expectation among our supporters that it always must be that way. But that can’t explain the situation entirely.

Just a few hours ago, I attended the annual Holocaust Days of Remembrance in Burbank, where every year, six candles are lit in memory of the six million Jews who were killed, and a seventh is lit to remember another victim group. Yet this and other similar activities haven’t led anyone to request or require every Holocaust observance to include every other genocide.

Plus, there is one other distinguishing factor in the case of the Armenian Genocide. Unlike all others save those also committed by Turkey—Assyrian, Greek and Kurdish—it is a case where the perpetrator is actively, presently, engaged in denial and perpetuation of the effects of the original mass murder.

These are issues that must be explained to our elected officials, so we can continue making progress. Let’s get to it.

Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.
Garen Yegparian

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