April 24 came and went this year, the way all days eventually come and go. I worked a 14 hour day with the ANCA-WR and attended three different Armenian Genocide-related events. In the morning, I went to the Montebello Armenian Genocide Monument, followed by the protest at the Turkish Consulate, and finally ended up at the Silence the Lies Rock the Truth concert.
During this 14 hour day (most of which was spent on my feet), I thought back to last year—April 24, 2011—more than I thought of 1915. On April 24, 2011, I did not spend the day attending these events. I was busy tending to my own needs. It was my last semester as a graduate student; I was preparing to graduate, finishing my classes, teaching freshman composition as a T.A., and completing my culminating experience. Despite my careful planning, the graduation requirements had changed just before I was out of the program, so I was left in a panic. Due to budgetary exigencies, the English department revoked the option of writing a thesis, and so I spent three months in a cave studying for the comprehensive exam—an exam which others spend a year or more preparing for.
This exam fell on April 26 and 27, and I spent all of the 24th trying to absorb my 1500 pages of notes. I paused a few times during the day to spare a thought for my lost cousins, but I was too wrapped up in my own misery to do much more. To make matters worse, Easter also fell on the 24th, and while I was cramming in an empty classroom on campus, I had to endure several phone calls from my father calling me “hetanos” and “tsoolvadz.”
This year, I can say that I at least don’t feel “tsoolvadz.” I saw so many different Armenians and non-Armenians at these three events, and I somehow felt a connection with all of them. Sometimes I try to look at things from an alien perspective and see if I can upset the logic of a scenario, or if there is a core of truth tucked away somewhere. What I saw from my new perspective was all kinds of people gathering to acknowledge the slaughter of a group and to condemn it. When the power dynamics and politics are extracted from this particular situation, what was taking place seemed to be a basic, undeniable truth—it is wrong to massacre other human beings. “Historical debate” becomes a meaningless phrase. What I witnessed transcended race and generational distance. I noticed non-Armenian spouses of Armenians, with their half-Armenian children, all wearing genocide awareness t-shirts, all of them condemning the slaughter of other human beings. I saw mothers marching and protesting with their babies, and I thought of the tired and hungry mothers who marched a hundred years ago, unable to loosen death’s grip on their weakened infants.
Most importantly, what I witnessed was the delivery of a message. Our story is printed in some books, and it is denied in others. Words are easy to read, but seeing the hundreds of people at the protest later in the day was a story unfolding before my eyes. Four generations gathered, some to tell a story, some to learn a story. And whoever learns it will never forget.