Travel 230 miles north of Los Angeles to Owens Valley at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and you will find a white concrete obelisk with black Japanese writing rising out of the desert. Only a few simple gravestones stand in the background a few feet away. Today, the obelisk is one of the few remaining structures from the Manzanar War Relocation Center—an American concentration camp where Japanese Americans were held during World War II.
For the month of April, a large banner draped over the Bay Bridge draws the attention of 250,000 drivers to the Armenian Genocide each day. On my commute to work, I asked two passengers in my rideshare if they knew about the Armenian Genocide. Aside from stating that a genocide happened in 1915, neither could tell me what happened, who the Armenians were, or where Armenia is located.
Today's social networks, news websites, and viral videos compete for our attention, inundating us with information. Sometimes they urge us to take action against the plight of others: the Syrian refugee crisis, the mass violence in Myanmar. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed, perhaps as though our small efforts won’t make a difference. Or perhaps we wonder why we should care about an issue so far away. For Americans during the early 20th century, the Armenian Genocide, which began today in 1915, resonated deeply, prompting the largest mass media campaign of its time to save thousands. With the luxury of instant connectivity today, their efforts can remind us just how far-reaching we can be when humanity depends on it.
Topics: Armenian Genocide