I know a lot of people read these blogs here on cilicia.com. Probably more so than any other Armenian blog out there. So, I'd like to put aside the seemingly frivolous album cover chatter and Pomegranate Music propaganda for a minute and bring up a few subjects I've been perplexed about over the last few months. Please feel free to comment, and please, have the KNATAGS to use your real name. The anonymous stuff is pretty weak. I can't even take the comments seriously. Bring something to the table, and put your name behind it.
As I prepare for my annual trip to Armenia next month, this time representing www.yerazart.org
, (last year, the Tufenkian Foundation) I've almost coincidentally been an active participant in various Armenian related blogs across the WWW. So, Armenia is on my brain as of late, aside from the music stuff. Quite frankly, I am almost in shock as to the content I have encountered. Please refer to the end of my blog for a taste of what I am taking about. More to come in future blogs. However, today, I had the pleasure of driving some of my absolute closest friends to the airport on their way to Armenia- Baykar and Narine Dervishian. Baykar was born here and this is his first time to Hayastan. I have been after him for four years to go, and, now with his Hayastansi via Glendale wife of one year (she has lived here for 17 years), they are on their way. For Narine, it is her first trip back in over 17 years. They were both nervous, but, excited. Also, another bunch of my close friends (including the co-best man at my wedding, Josh Tevekelian) are heading to Armenia as well. In fact, they should be there right now at the airport in Yerevan. For one of them, Shant, it is his first visit to Armenia. The other, Bolo, has been, but, it has been a while since he last visited. 1993, if I am not mistaken. I've known these guys since I was 12 or 13 and met two of them at AYF Seminar (and ARF organization). Josh, I met at Camp Hayastan (another ARF affiliated cultural entity).
The other night I saw an acquaintance (Lucine)I met through Baykar and Narine at the couple's home a few days back where she just came back from Armenia. It was her first time there since she left Armenia in 1992. So, Hayastansis going back for the first time since they left, American Armenians who are going for the first time, and a few of us going for the umteenth time to do whatever we do. It is really amazing to see how deep, and rich our Diaspora is. And, amazing in other ways to see how focused and preserved the Armenian identity is here in the States ( and globally, for that matter) with the will to WANT to go to a place that has been outlined in our dreams, stories from forefathers, and from friends.
So, from my perspective in Boston, with friends living all over the US, I see an increased interest in visiting Armenia. Additionally, the number of youth programs spanning the AGBU to ARF to the ACYOA and beyond, young professional groups, and professional organizations with Armenian non profit organizations mobilizing to become active and productive focusing on Armenia directly, it is something I have never witnessed in my over 20 years of various activism in the Armenian community. This isn't even mentioning the number of Diasporan Armenians that have said goodbye to their comfortable salaries here in the US, and moved to Armenia to seek personal, community, or professional clarity. In almost all cases, the drive to go to Armenia is twofold, to see the homeland first, and then to ask what they can do to help.
What is amazing to me, is in perusing the Blogs on our vast WWW, the amount of negativity, baseless Diasporan bashing, and clear misunderstanding that is out there. I will detail in forthcoming logs the Blogs I feel that are questionable in their content, information sharing, and general intent. In closing, I will say that there are more than 3 million Diasporans out there, including those who left Armenia in the last 15 years who are now Diasporans. There is a lot of history, pain, cultural loss, and positive productive activity out there that many people may not be aware of from places such as (let's just pick a random place, for example), Vermont.
Basing the Diaspora on a few or many encounters in Yerevan at Cafe's and Restaurants (and, of course, there is nothing wrong with that, is there?) certainly does not sum up the Diasporan Experience and their ability or desire to work in tandem with their Hayastansi counterparts in Armenia. In fact, my encounters with well-intentioned, very polite, and downright incredible non-Armenians in Armenia and here in the States who "adopt" Armenia as a place to study, live in, or find themselves within, has puzzled me as to what their motivation is to be among us. I continue to ask myself, and now the readers of this blog, what is the draw to our culture. And in some cases, I am truly stumped at the generalization put in print or via blogs by our Odar friends and foes. Or, just the misinformed.
Let me give you one example of a Blog that has captured my infamous fancy. www.blogrel.com
Let's leave it at that for now, get some of your comments, and then next time I'll pick up and develop my ideas a little further. Basically, what I am asking, is how do Armenians (Diaspora or otherwise) feel about things mentioned about us from the outside perspective. Do you feel they have sufficient information to make value judgements on our Experience? I am not judging, just asking.
Lastly, let me give you a quick taste of an Anti-Armenian comment made by some unknown guy in Cleveland, OH named Tim Russo. I won't dignify publicizing his website, however, here is a quote from the guy. "And here is where I will now piss off both my Armenian and Jewish friends. Both diasporas have a hardline element, which spend a great deal of time, money and effort stunting the growth of each homeland by forcing their vision of their pet issue on its politics. For Armenians, it is the struggle with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. For Israel, it is the settlements. Both are ethnic homeland arguments that eclipse every other issue.
The effect of following a diasporan-reinforced Karabakh hardline in Armenia has been the utter destruction of the country's democracy, the isolation of Armenia's economy, geopolitical paralysis in the region...you name it. The effect of a diasporan led Israeli settlements hardline? Where would you like me to begin?
When I was in Armenia, it broke my heart to watch a country with such potential simply rot because American hardliners played out their political pet peaves on the backs of average Armenians. Diasporans who (a) weren't born there, (b) wouldn't even live there, (c) would eventually come back to the states and sit in their air-conditioned SoCal living rooms surrounded by their Armenian trinkets, stroke this carefully quilted version of their ethnic destiny at an incredibly high cost...a cost they themselves never actually pay. But it wasn't really my problem."
Or, in a seemingly out of place blog on his experience in Armenia, he retreats to reminicing about his "good ol days" in Armenia. Play close attention to the innuendo between "civilized Europe" and the "animals" comment.
Tim Russo again says, "So imagine you are a new arrival in Armenia, you just flew in from some civilized place in Europe, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, fresh on the ground to help save the world with some international aid organization, looking to make a good impression on your new co-workers. Said co-workers pick your jet-lagged body up at the airport, and instead of sensibly taking you home to bed at 1 a.m. they throw you into a party with a bunch of drunk animals dancing in a circle shoving liquor down their throats. Somehow, it seemed as appropriate a welcome to Armenia as anything."
Here is Tim Russo's email address, email@example.com
I personally and openly challenge Tim Russo to fly to Boston next year to attend an April 24th commemoration here in Boston or New York. I will introduce him to Armenian Genocide survivors. Then, after that, he wants to talk about a "price to pay", I will listen. Lastly, I openly wonder (and strongly doubt)if Tim Russo has been to Karabagh and met the Armenian residents who were attacked via missle and grenade launchers from Shushi and had to defend their land. Not to preserve an identity, but, merely to survive.