The enormity of the Jewish Holocaust, the killing fields in Cambodia, and the crimes in Sudan, all remind us that we are slow learners.
So how do we judge progress? How do we know we have graduated from "special ed"?
First, we should be able to recognize the common characteristics of genocidal acts, and be able to identify the conditions, which pre-exist such horrors.
A systematic plan to eradicate a people, the existence of an exclusivist ideology to justify the crimes, the opportunity of chaos and war to hide the horrors from the world, are some of the common threads in all acts of genocide.
Moreover, with every genocide comes a set of deniers. But whether it's the agents of Turkish government dressed in fine European suits, or the voice of neo-fascists in Europe, or the head of a fundamentalist state, they all share a similar intent.
The ability to identify the denialists is an important test in graduating from the class of learning.
If we are to learn from history, we should also have the capacity to understand the universal nature of the sufferings.
If we are only capable of mourning our own ethnocentric losses, while being indifferent to the suffering of others, then we have only learned that specific paragraph in the lesson.
I'd read about the Jewish Holocaust, seen numerous documentaries regarding the atrocities, but it was not until I visited the Museum of Tolerance when the gravity of the crimes took deep roots in me.
In the museum, I received a photo passport card with the story of a child whose life was changed by the Holocaust. Throughout the tour, the passport was updated and at the end, the ultimate fate of the child was revealed. It is at that moment, when the pain of that child and her family became my pain. It is exactly at that moment when, I believed human beings are capable of learning.