Now, why was I Armenian again...?
Now, I was there on a project that brought together a lot of young people from many countries, and explaining who an Armenian is to them was something of a task, especially when it came to the Diaspora. I would tell them Cher is Armenian, Andre Agassi is Armenian, and the guy from Brazil would say, to paraphrase, "What are you talking about ? I was born in Rio, that makes me Brazilian. It doesn't matter that my grandpa came from Portugal and the other grandpa was from Africa. These guys you mention are born and bred Americans", and I would respond, "Yes, well, they have Armenian blood..." etc., etc. And then I would be like, "All right, so they are maybe more American than Armenian, but are you trying to tell me the System of a Down chaps are not Armenian ?", and so on, and so forth...
This issue of the Armenian Identity is often brought up, especially in Diasporan circles. I know I have thought long and hard about it, and I am sure every Armenian has their own take on it (some probably have two or three opinions), but those many weeks with odars, constantly telling them so-and-so is Armenian, such-and-such thing was invented by an Armenian - really, they were quite sick of me by the end... well, much before the end, to be frank - all of this was lovely for me, re-asserting that I am Armenian, re-asserting who Armenians are...
Yesterday was April 24th, and I kept a special eye out on the international media. I can say we got almost zero coverage. Not even EuroNews, nothing on BBC or CNN, of course, and the people at Al Jazeera had more important things on their mind. The Russians were good to us, though, and this at a time when their journalists are super-busy covering the death of Boris Yeltsin.
Now, I've gotten to thinking again, as every good Armenian gets to thinking... I've answered the question to myself on a number of occasions, in a number of different ways, how it is that I am Armenian, disregarding place of birth, languages spoken, passports held, and all that sort of thing, but now I am asking myself why I am Armenian.
If you think about it, as yesterday's media attention shows, we Armenians aren't exactly the most happening nation on the planet. No-one in particular cares about us, unless we are of some use to them. Sure, this can be said of any nation in the world, the smaller ones in particular. We are living in an age, however, when identities can be changed with some ease, much more than ever before. I can move to the States, Canada, any New World country, really, even Australia, New Zealand or Western Europe. I can say that I'm French or German or even Russian without any major legal or other qualms from Paris, Berlin or Moscow and, indeed, many choose to do so, Armenians or otherwise.
And many don't. I can't tell you how touched I feel when I meet a compatriot who is, say, a fourth generation Diasporan, and yet he comes to Armenia to do something, there is a calling in that person. This sentimentality, this ideology that we have, even though it very often comes to nothing in the end in real terms, is very... well, it's just so amazing sometimes. I know my ancestors come from a place nowhere near the modern Republic of Armenia, but this is where I want to live and work. I get this from my parents, and they got it from their parents. I remember meeting a barsgahay once. He said, "Chors hariur tari e Hayastanoum chem yeghel" (an Armenian from Iran, saying he hadn't been to Armenia for four hundred years). Really, "touching" is just the word I like to use for such cases. Houzich.
But the question is, Why ?
Do we have some sort of secret deal with some infinite powers ? Maybe we are going to inherit the Earth as long as we remain Armenian. We have a long history and rich culture, but so do so many others. Why aren't we abandoning this identity and shedding the sad load that accompanies it ? It is often difficult to be Armenian, you know...
Well, I realise I've opened a big can of worms here, but it's just something to think about.