The path is similar to the grieving process: First denial, then reckoning, then acceptance. Right now, nearly a century after the fact, Turkey is still officially in denial, but individual Turks have begun the process of reckoning, and a growing number of their countrymen are joining them in calling for the country as a whole to face its past honestly.
Turkey's immediate response to the bill's passage shows that the government is not yet ready to do that. It recalled its ambassador to France for consultations, a stronger sign of protest than the one it registered when the French government formally recognized the Armenian genocide in 2001.
Turkey still maintains that the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in the years 1915-1918 were the result of a civil war that caused heavy loss of life on both sides. Many historians disagree, and a number of governments have gone on record as supporting those historians.
For many years, French films, literature and public history glossed over the active assistance the Vichy government gave Nazi Germany in similar fashion. To hear the official line, the entire nation was behind General Charles deGaulle and the Free French resistance. But now that France has acknowledged that many French actually did collaborate with the Nazi program to exterminate the Jews, it has added moral authority in calling for others to face their own past sins.
The Turkish government does have a point when it accuses France of making this move for political reasons: French President Nicholas Sarkozy opposes Turkey's application to join the European Union, and this bill throws a serious roadblock in the path of the currently stalled bid. It will be more difficult now for Turkey to gain EU membership if it continues to deny that genocide occurred in Armenia during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Yet acknowledging that genocide would complete a process the founders of modern Turkey earnestly sought: to anchor the country firmly in both the Middle East and the West and serve as a bridge between the two.
Image source: French National Assembly