Letter: Bristol arts education taught me to resist genocide

Posted 1/4/24

My high school theatre class helped me identify that what is occurring in Palestine is genocide.

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Letter: Bristol arts education taught me to resist genocide


To the editor:

My high school theatre class helped me identify that what is occurring in Palestine is genocide.

In 2014, Mt. Hope High School’s theatre teacher, Carol Schlink, wrote a play, titled "We Survived! Stories of Survival from the Armenian Genocide of 1915”, inspired by her grandparents’ accounts. I remember how diligently my peers participated in the project and the faith our teacher put in us to honor her family’s stories. I remember learning how Armenian people experienced breathtaking amounts of loss and desecration, and had to keep moving to survive.

I tried and failed many times to imagine how I’d keep going had I been subjected to the same torture and exile. Schlink stated about the play, "Genocide is not war. No one knows about this. Hitler used it as justification. He told his troops, 'We're going to get away with this. After all, who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?'"

Hearing Schlink say these words was the first time I’d ever considered that atrocities are modeled after one another. Understanding this has made the reality of the occupation of Palestine by Israel clear.

Participating in “We Survived” made me attuned to how happy people are to ignore the suffering of those facing annihilation. It taught me to do everything in my power to help prevent the irreversible consequences of genocide. I can see clearly now that Mrs. Schlink did not only feel pressured to keep her ancestors’ stories alive, but to warn her students about history’s tendency to repeat itself. Did you know that Armenian civilians, like Palestinian civilians, were deemed traitorous by their occupiers for merely existing, as a way to justify their mass murders? Did you know that Israel has continuously denied that the Armenian genocide occurred? Armenians and Palestinians know what it means to lose your entire bloodline or to be exiled to the desert without food and water.

According to the American Friends Service Committee, Raytheon makes the missiles that the US provides to Israel to murder Palestinian civilians. Having learned about the Armenian genocide, the trauma of survivors and their descendants, and the Palestinian genocide, I refuse to act as though Raytheon (now RTX) is a normal, justifiable, local workplace, rather than a child-murdering factory. I am tired of the suburban expectation to remain polite and uncritical to my peers. I refuse to prioritize that expectation over doing what I can to prevent more children from being killed. Raytheon must be stopped and held accountable. I call on all my peers who work there to quit their jobs in solidarity with the Palestinian people, to stop profiting off of genocide.

I have a renewed admiration for the bravery of Mrs. Schlink to uplift stories that so many want to keep buried. From Rhode Island where the bombs are made, to Armenia, which is currently undergoing ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan, to Palestine, let us end genocide once and for all.

Madeline Lessing

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