A Talk With SYSTEM OF A DOWN's TANKIAN: 'Screamers,' Activism, And Heart

HuffingtonPost.com recently spoke with SYSTEM OF A DOWN singer Serj Tankian about "Screamers", a documentary by Carla Garapedian which centers around SYSTEM OF A DOWN and Tankian, as they tour Europe and discuss the issues of Armenia, genocide, and human rights. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:

HuffingtonPost.com: What politicized you? As an Armenian-American, was it your family's memories of the Armenian genocide?

Serj: It was the denial of genocide, more than the genocide itself, that politicized me. I was troubled by the idea that this kind of violence could occur, only to be ignored or covered up. It made me feel I had to act and react. There are so many things going on in the world today that are receiving the same treatment — including, but not limited to, Darfur and Rwanda. In a way, the hypocrisy of the denial is more politicizing than the act itself. I think that the memory of Armenia's genocide opened my eyes at an early age to the existence of political cynicism.

HuffingtonPost.com: What's your definition of "genocide"? The diplomatic community has one, but does the word have a more personal meaning for you?

Serj: My thing is figuring out how to put things in a simple way, so here's my definition: If someone gets attacked because they look different, act different, or pray differently, that's genocide. And if the mass execution of a people is organized and perpetrated by a government, that's definitely genocide. But anytime people are made to suffer as a group because they're different from others — to me, that's genocide too.

HuffingtonPost.com: A lot of political leaders, even well-meaning ones, might say that forcing Turkey to acnowledge the Armenian genocide would limit our ability to fight terror or do other good things in the world. What would you say to someone who argues that the genocide took place almost a century ago, and that they'd rather concentrate on what we can do today?

Serj: Look: Correct recognition of the past affects the present. It's as simple as that. If we're at the point where we're going to use genocide as currency to get something we want from another nation ... well, we're really fucked, aren't we? Let me put it another way: You can't do the wrong thing for the right reason. It won't work. It never has.

HuffingtonPost.com: The movie shows your efforts to get Denny Hastert to advance a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. The film's equally rough on the first Bush administration and Clinton's over this issue. Do you think the resolution will do any better now that the Democrats control Congress?

Serj: You mean, are they real reformers or just "corporate Democrats"? We'll see. So far everybody's enjoying the general feeling of optimism, but Congress hasn't even convened yet. Nobody's really "in" over there right now.

Read the entire interview at this location.


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