By: Janet Shamilian
Each of us is rightfully entitled to our own assessment of what the Armenian Cause means. Some of us may feel a stronger connection with a certain issue than another and others may weigh in most, if not all issues involving Armenians. However, to assume that the Armenian Cause is only confined to the acceptance and recognition of the Armenian Genocide is blindly neglecting the truth, history, and facts – and as a people, we have had our overdosed and prolonged encounter with negligence.
Being Armenian is not an obligation we fulfill 1 out of the 365 days in the year. It is not only about how dedicated we are to our people each year, solely on the 24th of April. It surely is not about how many Armenian flags we display in just about every single size and how often we drive around the consulate, encircling the protest. Rather, being a faithful Armenian is defined by the work and time we contribute to our cause, not just on the 24th of April, but on every single day of the year. I commend those Armenians who have dedicated their lives to our cause. I applaud those Armenians who have sacrificed their vocation in order to help their people.
The genocide does not only revolve around the recognition of the crimes committed against humanity almost a century ago. We often forget that recognition is only a step and not the destination. As we advocate for justice, we must not disregard other necessities that come along with the acceptance of our history – such as the need to demand for restitution. Restitution, the act of returning something lost or stolen to its rightful owner, should be the next step. In the 1990’s, groups of Holocaust survivors established reparation programs in countries that were both directly and indirectly affected as a result of the Nazi regime. On October 3, 2010, Germany paid off the last installment of interest, finally settling its World War I accounts. After Finland sustained its independence during World War II, it had to pay huge war reparations to the Soviet Union along with Hungary, former Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Similarly, after World War II, Italy and Germany had borrowed a great sum of money from Greece and ended up repaying Greece for war reparations. Following these few examples from history, we must be mindful that advocating for the acceptance of the genocide is not enough. We cannot forget our geographic soul.
The Armenian Genocide is not the only issue Armenians face in the United States or internationally. A prevailing issue that is taking place right now is the breach of ceasefire between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Despite peace talks and agreed ceasefire in May 1994, periodic shootouts on the borderline have taken place for the past 18 years. This “frozen conflict” has led to the killings of soldiers in times of these sporadic infringements of ceasefire. The autonomy and sovereignty of Armenians in Karabakh will be at risk if the international community and we, the members of our community, remain dormant and uneducated about these acts of hostility. Thankfully, by finally addressing the serious violations of the Azeris, the United States Department of Defense blocked Azerbaijan from purchasing U.S. military equipment. Azerbaijan’s aggressiveness and disrespect towards calls to settle the Karabakh issue peacefully should ignite and activate members of the Armenian community. This focus on present day issues is imperative in steps towards understanding the Armenian Cause.
Other prevailing contemporary issues include the bipartisan measure regarding Turkey’s stolen Christian church properties and the resistance and discrimination Turkey bears towards freedom of faith for religious minorities. This measure calls upon Turkey to return all confiscated Christian church properties along with various affiliated artifacts. Turkey threatens the survival and longevity of religious minorities when showing resistance to religious freedom.The Churches Resolution is aligned with American’s beliefs of religious freedom and practice. It would be hypocritical for this superpower to not intervene and pressure respective parties to return religious sights to their rightful owners.
By providing foreign aid, the United States is able to promote and stabilize healthier democracies, ensure a favorable environment for American products, strengthen national security, and defend its global leadership. In May 2012, United States House of Representatives panel for foreign affairs proposed increasing foreign aid to Karabakh from $2 million to $5 million. This proposal results in a 150% increase of aid to Karabakh while preserving aid to Armenia.
Another pressing issue is the assimilation of our culture and people. Rather than retaining our cultural identity, we are bidding farewell to our near 5,000-year history. Nothing is worth such an unfair and parasitic trade-off. Adapting to our environment is integral, but being absorbed by our surroundings is unacceptable. Assimilation inevitably leads to a loss of identity, thereby demonstrating detriment in the already microscopic Armenian community.
The abovementioned problems are rooted in our history but are problems taking place in modern society. Though the recognition of the Armenian Genocide should be at the top of our political agenda, we cannot abandon the current occurrences involving our homeland and our people. It is important to place a fair balance on the past and present together, since both the past and present largely impact our future. Other than educating ourselves regarding the issues mentioned above, the first step towards helping our community is by calling our local Senators and U.S. Representatives and urging and encouraging them to vote for pro-Armenian issues. If you are already represented by individuals who are supportive of these issues, the power of “thank you” notes goes a long way…
The Armenian Cause is not a subjective field, dependent on each individual. It is a series of causes and issues that together comprise the Armenian fight to overcome our lingering battles. We are the soldiers in this battle. Just as in any successful strategy of war, while we can prioritize, we cannot direct all our attention towards just one issue. Failure to disperse our attention and magnify all the issues will not only make us seem unknowledgeable, and even worse, vulnerable and blindsided. The Armenian Cause is the overarching theme of the Armenian struggle, respective of ALL issues taking place within the Armenian community.
By: Maria Martirosyan
When I first meet someone, I always have the urge to ask them where they are from? More often than not, most people reply saying, “I’m American”. It boggles my mind to try to comprehend what it means to be American. My understanding has always been that America, at its very core, is a nation of immigrants, a collection of many cultures from many nations. Therefore, I asked myself, can someone truly be just an American or is it more complex than that?
For generations, America has thrived from its so-called melting pot heritage. It is the idea that people of different nationalities come together to become one in the American melting pot, merging a diverse society to become more homogeneous, all to create a single identity. This idea has been told, retold, and pressed upon people for years.
With so many ethnically concentrated neighborhoods, most parents and grandparents strive to keep the culture alive in the new generation, while outside of their homes, the youth are told to jump into the great American melting pot. Whereas I wrote in my previous blog, as an immigrant child going to school in America I was told to adapt to this culture and embrace the idea of the American melting pot. This included reciting the pledge of allegiance every morning, speaking English-only in school, learning American children’s’ rhymes, watching kids’ cartoons about the importance of the United States of America in the world, and listening to ‘N Sync. It was quiet evident that I and many of the other immigrant students felt the burden of needing to fit in and be accepted with the current culture. The culture that is so praised, popular, and powerful – the American way of life.
Nevertheless, allow me to clarify. Although I have no problem with reciting the pledge of allegiance or engaging myself in any American activity, my issue arises when it infringes upon the cultures and identities of individuals, especially children. No one should have to shed their identity or stray away from educating themselves about their family roots to be accepted. I find it to be of great importance that people embrace their heritage and their roots as we all share our cultures with one another. By doing so, we will increase not only education and awareness, but hopefully one day this sort of lifestyle will lead to not only tolerance, but acceptance of all the different cultures the American society has to offer. America is so great not because of the assimilation but because we all come from difference background and have something unique to offer in the great American salad bowl. Yes, the salad bowl! I strongly stress that the American society changes their mindset from emphasizing the American melting pot to emphasizing the American salad bowl, because just like all the different ingredients that come together in the salad bowl, various cultures come together to make America. So as individuals we should always remember to stand out, yet still stand together!
By: Zara Hovasapyan
If you haven’t played the “wikipedia game,” it is actually quite an amusing way of passing time. With a friend, or alone, you can choose article A to begin with and, by clicking links, finish at article B. An example would be to start with the wikipedia article on Dolma and end at the wikipedia article on Mogadishu. Believe me, it can be done. However, if you start with any article pertaining to Armenian politics or the Armenian-American community, it only takes a few links to get to an article on the “White Genocide.”
What is the White Genocide that I am referring to? The White Genocide is the assimilation of the Diasporan Armenians into Western Society. Though we lost many Armenians in numbers during the Armenian Genocide in the early 1900’s, what is worse is that the Turks attempted to annihilate our culture, our language and our heritage and eradicate all traces of Armenian existence. We now face a similar problem: assimilation. I have noticed a trend that Armenian youths are more inclined to adopt the “American” culture and sever their ties with the Armenian community.
As an Armenian-American, I view my identity as the overlapping part of two circles in a Venn diagram. From that perspective, being Armenian and being American are not mutually exclusive. I have proudly adopted many aspects of American culture while preserving and perpetuating Armenian culture simultaneously.
Few things bring me more joy than going to the Pantages or the Ahmanson with my mom to watch a Broadway musical. Eating brown sugar oatmeal before a midterm has become a ritual for me. Memorial day weekend is spent at an American national park every single year. I cherish these traditions that I have gained from living in the United States, however, for everything American that makes me happy, I have an Armenian pastime to counter that American influence. And they are not hard to find. From watching Armenian television, I get all the Armenian humor I need to fill my day with laughs. Walking a few blocks to the closest Armenian store and bringing home some dolma, going to an Armenian Apostolic Church almost every Sunday, reading Armenian history, and even something as simple as speaking Armenian with my family.
I love the United States and I love American culture. California has been my home for the past 16 years; however, my roots will never be forgotten. Changing my physical environment does not change my heritage, my family’s history, or my sense of self. I am not simply Armenian or simply American, I am Armenian-American (the hyphen is the operative character in this sentence) and everything that I am today was influenced by both cultures without dwindling the influence of either. While it may appear that cultivating only one culture is the easier path, adopting both and revering the nature of co-existing cultures is more enriching and rewarding.
By: Janet Shamilian
The legacy of the Armenian language is consisted of 36 letters that together form the beautiful identity of the Armenian culture. The process of studying and ultimately mastering the Armenian language accurately reflects the Armenian people: a great deal of patience is required in learning the words. Similarly, patience is a fundamental characteristic of my people. After all, we have been waiting over 97 years for justice… As with any other language, these letters form words, which arrange sentences, later transforming into powerful thoughts, which create ideas, and ultimately metamorphose into actions. This sequential build up echoes the struggles my people have gone through – picking the pieces after tragedies in order to recreate the bigger picture for future generations. The Armenian language is deep, personal, and oh so beautiful…
American society has often been described as a melting pot. While this promotes diversity, it also creates competition between assimilation and identification. These two are in fact almost antithetic. The first and most powerful element necessary for assimilation is the rapid riddance of language. Let us just continue speaking English and consequently forget our native tongue. Would anyone want to lose our cultural makeup? Surely not. However, inevitably, without any realization, we are undermining our native tongue and dissolving the core identifier of our culture. To demonstrate this, just think of the many times we have heard our grandparents disappointedly affirm, «Հայերեն խոսացեք»։ (Hayeren khosek). Almost immediately, we speak Armenian so as to avoid further criticism, uttering a few words in the language… The most worrisome component of this process is that we do not even realize that after a few brief seconds (after our grandparents are out of earshot) we are back in our comfort zone – speaking English. We have difficulties speaking a sentence of Armenian without using an English word to substitute a word we cannot translate. If we continue regressing in such an expeditious manner, speaking Armenian in the future will be anomalous.
Furthermore, the distinction between dialects in our culture creates a great divide among us. Why are we defined by our different dialects rather than our մշակույթ (culture)? Why do we need to be classified as a hayastanci, beirutsi, or parskahye? By identifying with a dialect rather than our culture, we breach what is most sacred to us – we create a void that no language can fill. We should not allow different pronunciations to dictate what ‘kind’ of an Armenian we are. We are just that – Armenian. Nothing western or eastern in that.
Luckily, there seems to be a remedy to the aforementioned problems. Let us challenge ourselves and start somewhere – by reading Armenian children’s books to familiarize ourselves with the 36 letters, by speaking in Armenian, by thinking in Armenian, by examining our written masterpieces, by viewing our beautiful art, and by learning our history. These explorations will keep us mindful of the fact that our Armenian language is and should be irreplaceable . Lastly, to truly embrace our culture, the next time someone tries to isolate you by asking what dialect of Armenian you speak, remember that your dialect does not define you. ԱԲԳ defines you.