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The Armenian Genocide


We can be touched by something, the faintest brush with world events, and still be “marked” by them. Such it is with the Armenian Genocide.

At slightly more than a month from my seventy-fifth birthday, I grew up innocent (i.e., ignorant) of the slaughter of almost an entire people by the Turks during 1914-1923. Some voices would like to characterize it as just one of the many regrettable aspects of WWI. But this human tragedy stands apart from the War and presents us with its own special horrors. I was whopped up the side of the head yesterday by a FaceBook post by my friend Sabrina Hornung, with whom I have slightly more than a passing acquaintance. I hadn’t known of her family’s connection with Armenia, however, until the U.S. denial of the event was brought about by a truly reprehensible N.D. politician, who shall for the time being remain nameless.

I suddenly realized that I, too, had a remote connection with this special point of history and wanted to write Sabrina about it. And, then, to wonder how Agincourt might have been aware of it in the midst of WWI. I wrote:

Dear Sabrina: You and I have an odd connection through a print I own which happens to be by an early 20th century British artist named Bertha Hornung. I like to think she may be a distant relative of yours and that art flows more generally through Hornung veins. Now you have given me, as of yesterday, another link.

Thank you for sharing your family’s connection with the Armenian Genocide—and the reprehensible North Dakota politician suppressing our acknowledgment of that tragedy. It reminded me of an experience I had more than fifty years ago.

In the spring of 1967 I was a fourth-year student of architecture at the University of Oklahoma. One Saturday I drove to Oklahoma City, intent on visiting the shop of Bogosian & Keshishian, dealers in oriental carpets and rugs. I was greeted by Mr Keshishian, the junior and I presume surviving partner in the business. He was seated at a large frame, repairing a worn carpet with carefully matched thread, hand-tied with his thin nimble fingers. Mr Keshishian invested two hours with me, teaching me about regional variants in Middle Eastern carpet weaving, the use of vegetable dyes, the patterns, and other things which he shared with someone less than a third his age and unlikely to invest in his wares.

My eye was caught by a Kerman runner, about three by eight feet, in colors of teal, orange, and camel. It was well beyond my means but I wondered if buying on installments was possible. We settled on a down payment and three successive monthly payments. I left the shop both happy and better informed.

Each month I would drive to the shop and make my payment personally and gain a little more knowledge. On the third installment, he allowed me to take my carpet on faith that I would complete our transaction honorably. At that point, I knew nothing of the Armenian Genocide, but hindsight and the story of your own family tells me that he was of the right age to have been a child-survivor of the Turkish killing of his people. Sadly, it’s too late for me to ask.

I am now the age he was when we met and we have all come to know of the tragic circumstances which are likely to have brought his family to our country. I have personally honored his memory as an old man who shared his knowledge with someone whose aspirations clearly exceeded his finances. Today I have another greater reason to think of him each time I walk on the carpet that, like me, has become an antique. And I thank you for that opportunity.

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