Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Bluebeard’

Kurt Vonnegut has always been a favourite author of mine. I’m just finishing the final chapter of his novel ‘Bluebeard’ which, among myriad other story lines, is riddled with the theme of painting – painting of the canvas kind; of the abstract expressionist kind. And so on. Throughout this great read I’ve been fascinated by the potato barn belonging to the main character Rabo Karabekian and what he’s got stored in there under lock and key.

Rabo Karabekian’s Potato Barn – my watercolour

I won’t reveal this is in case anyone reading cares to pick up the novel. Rabo’s parents lived through the Turkish Armenian genocide in 1915 before emigrating to America. Imagine that.

Rabo Karabekian’s painting  “The Temptation of Saint Anthony”

Recently the Turkish Government threatened to ban all members of the NSW Parliament from attending the centenary commemorations at Gallipoli in 2015. This came in response to motions passed unanimously by the NSW parliament in May 2013 officially recognising the Armenian genocide. Only 21 nations have formally recognised the Armenian genocide. The Turkish government has long denied it. Authoritative and expert sources confirm an estimated 1.5 million people died at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish regime which systematically destroyed village after village. When Hitler was planning the genocide of the Jews and he was questioned about it, he retorted:

Don’t worry, who remembers the Armenian genocide? Who remembers it?

8709 Australian soldiers died at Gallipoli which is approximately 0.58% of the casualties of the Armenian genocide (not to say that comparisons are meaningful in such tragedies). But few question this terrible loss of Australian and Turkish lives for no gain – certainly not the increasing numbers of young Australians who travel to Gallipoli for the annual remembrance and seem to have accepted it’s fictitious significance. The value in the Gallipoli story and what has become the myth of the ANZAC is in the transformation of our ‘shameful’ international image of scruffy convicts into brave defenders of the British Empire, despite Gallipoli being one of the greatest strategic blunders in military history.

Lest we forget the stupidity of killing in war; whether it be Armenians, Turks, ANZACS, Iraqis, Vietnamese or Aboriginal Australians.

(Note: Why is there no recognition of the white man’s wars against the Aboriginal people of Australia? (e.g. in the Australian War Memorial?)

Best we forgot??

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