Despite political adversity, ‘The Promise’ film survives to recount Armenian genocide

Armenian refugee camp in Paris, American Military Hospital 3. (US Library of Congress; Aug. 13, 1918)

Armenian refugee camp in Paris as rations were about to be distributed, American Military Hospital 3. (US Library of Congress;1918)

The Armenian genocide, unlike other mass killings of a targeted people, is one of the best kept secrets in history. Academics don’t dwell on it if they mention it at all in history classes.

While putting the past behind us is key to forgiveness and strength, ignoring the mass killing of any people is unacceptable.

Now a new film The Promise relates this chapter in history by telling the story of a love triangle. 

Film poster 'The Promise' from Facebook.

Film poster ‘The Promise’ from Facebook.

Christian Bale plays the character of Chris Myers, a journalist from America who is working in Paris. The photo featured here, of the Armenian refugee camp, would have been a familiar scene in the ‘City of Love’ amid chaos brought on by World War I.

Media often tiptoe around the slaughter of Armenians in what was then the Ottoman Empire. By 1914 that empire led by the Young Turks had allied with Germany and the Central Powers to oppose Great Britain, France, and others in the Triple Entente in what propagandists called the “War to End War.”

Encyclopaedia Brittanica offers a careful construct on the massacre and the background:

“In 1908 a small group of Ottoman revolutionaries—the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), popularly referred to as the “Young Turks”—came to power. Armenians welcomed the restoration of the Ottoman constitution, and the promise of elections led Armenians and other non-Turks within the empire to cooperate with the new political order. Over time, however, the ambitions of the Young Turks became more militant, less tolerant of non-Turks, and increasingly suspicious of their Armenian subjects, whom they imagined were collaborating with foreign powers. Increasingly authoritarian, the Young Turks consolidated power…”

While Brittanica does admit the estimate on the slaughter of 1,000,000 Armenians is a “conservative estimate,” other sources place deaths at 1,500,000 with millions of others displaced or deported.

The Armenian National Institute is an interesting richly populated source for information about the genocide. The site does not permit copying information even for citation purposes, but it is well worth a visit if you are interested in history, especially history that makes some governments uncomfortable.

When you read accounts or commentary on this historical series of events, the fact most of those killed were Christians is often omitted. However, the website History.com does put the event in context:

“The Ottoman rulers, like most of their subjects, were Muslim. They permitted religious minorities like the Armenians to maintain some autonomy, but they also subjected Armenians, who they viewed as “infidels,” to unequal and unjust treatment. Christians had to pay higher taxes than Muslims, for example, and they had very few political and legal rights.”

The website Miss Liberty has more on this film and others reflecting libertarian ideals and philosophy. Updates and breaking news are covered by Libertarian Film on Twitter.

It’s always fascinated me that the leftist Young Turks in the US, leaning to Democrats’ ideology, would have chosen that name for themselves, considering history.

Then again, in the United States, history is taught in a narrow vacuum, focusing on a brief period in our young republic’s short history while horrific actions occurring at the same time in other countries are completely dismissed.

The Promise recounts a genocide much of the world has ignored. It’s time to recognize it and honor the millions of victims whose families were decimated because of political ideology. The human condition of suffering has at one time or another affected just about every ethnic group. People of all complexions and creeds have been enslaved or oppressed dating to antiquity.

Until we acknowledge the critical value of individualism and adhere to the American ideal of equality and freedom for all, we will continue to see suffering inflicted by one or more groups on another.

The film was made outside Hollywood’s political strait jacket. It took a great deal of commitment to finally bring a film about the Armenian genocide to market.

Before the film had even opened, political attacks were launched by reviewers, most of whom had not even seen it yet. Those individuals—aside from potentially artificial bots—simply cannot reconcile themselves to the truth. Ignoring the mass slaughter of a people sets a dangerous precedent. Hopefully, we Americans are as politicians like to say “better than that.” Hopefully, the film will be supported by the public and judged honestly.

The Day of Remembrance for the Armenian genocide is April 24

Learn more about The Promise by visiting the Facebook page by the same name.

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/April 21, 2017)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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