TO THE EDITOR:
Genocide is a powerful word. In her Pulitzer winning book “A Problem from Hell,” Samantha Power suggested the word would “chill listeners and invite immediate condemnation” and “carry in it society’s revulsion and indignation.” Human rights activists are warning that present violence and chaos in two areas of the world, Central African Republic and Myanmar, put certain peoples there at risk of genocide.
The United Nations defined genocide in 1948 as specific “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…” Those acts are: killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births and forcibly transferring children. Some nations expand the definition of genocide to include groups classified by age, sexual orientation, gender, political “condition,” health, or, as with France, “any other arbitrary criterion.”
And while the UN Convention limits prosecutable genocide, UN Resolution 96, passed in 1946, describes genocide as, “a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups,” “when racial, religious, political or other groups have been destroyed in whole or in part,” and whether committed by “private individuals, public officials or statesmen, and whether the crime is committed on religious, racial, political, or any other grounds.”
When Raphael Lemkin coined the word genocide in the mid 1940s, he focused on one shade of meaning of the roots gen and genos, one with the suggestion of race. But there are other shades attached to them as seen in the English words genesis, engender, genetics, generate, generation, and genius, which imply “beginnings” and “family.” Progeny means “offspring.”