BY MARIA TITIZIAN
The Christmas tree in our capital city’s Republic Square is lit, holiday decorations are up, traffic is congested, people are buying presents, mothers are frantically preparing traditional dishes for their holiday table and children are looking forward to presents and their winter break from school. Some are leaving for faraway destinations in search of some warmth and recreation, others are struggling to heat their homes and find creative ways to make sure Christmas time is memorable for their families.
As 2012 draws to a close, it should be a time to reflect on the past year, the small victories and tiny steps toward grace, and those moments when our knees buckled under the weight of dishonor. We did have moments of pride, like when our men’s chess team brought home the title of World Chess Olympiads, when the epic David of Sassun was included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, when we hosted Junior Eurovision without any major glitches, when Yerevan was a flurry of activity as UNESCO’s 2012 World Book Capital.
And then there were those moments that brought disgrace to our collective narrative: the parliamentary elections in May, which saw an unprecedented rise in voter bribes and intimidation and which firmly placed Armenia on the path to authoritarianism; the brutal murder of an army doctor, Vahe Avetyan at the restaurant complex Harsnaqar, owned by renowned oligarch Ruben Hayrapetyan; trumped up charges against Vartan Oskanyan for money laundering, which led to the removal of his parliamentary immunity in order to be charged; the abject failure of our foreign ministry to realize that the extradition of Ramil Safarov by Hungary was imminent and to have worked diligently to ensure that an ax-murderer of an Armenian officer on European soil would not be set free before serving the entirety of his sentence; the alarming rise in poverty and the continuing exodus of Armenians from the country; the disgraceful behavior by elected and appointed officials on a regular basis (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=geNJzTg0aao)
The collective dream of a brave new homeland has been fleeting; it is slowly being eroded with every misstep and every wrong turn.
A passage from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which had been lodged in the recesses of my memory for quite some time, suddenly revealed itself with astounding clarity today.
It reads: “Ursula wondered if it was not preferable to lie down once and for all in her grave and let them throw the earth over her, and she asked God, without fear, if he really believed that people were made of iron in order to bear so many troubles and mortifications; and asking over and over she was stirring up her own confusion and she felt irrepressible desires to let herself go and scamper about like a foreigner and allow herself at last an instant of rebellion, that instant yearned for so many times and so many times postponed, putting her resignation aside and shitting on everything once and for all and drawing out of her heart the infinite stacks of bad words that she had been forced to swallow over a century of conformity.”
I can’t recall the number of times I have read these lines, feeling an instant affinity with Ursula and her irrepressible desire to rebel. Although those who know me well also know that I don’t have a problem expressing my opinion nor do I refrain from using the occasional swear word. But this passage, I have come to realize has nothing to do with me. As I read it once again today, parallels revealed themselves between Ursula’s struggle to keep her family intact, to seek redemption for all the sins her sons had committed and Armenia’s struggle for life and survival. Like Ursula, Armenia has borne so many troubles and mortifications. Where Ursula is the moral conscience of her family as she struggles to rein in her descendents from ruin, Armenia is the mother seeking to redeem the waywardness of her children.
Just as Ursula takes on multiple roles to sustain her family, I think the time has come that the women of this nation, find the inner strength, courage and fortitude to take upon themselves the multiple national roles of not only mother and educator, but activist, equal partner and leader. As women, we should no longer postpone that yearning for redemption and grace; we should allow ourselves that last instant of rebellion in order to help reset our national compass, our path and place on this earth.
As 2012 winds down, we are faced yet again with the promise of political turmoil and uncertainty, struggling to grasp the last straws of hope. As we hurl our collective selves toward a new year, and as a new cosmic alignment is shaping, we are left hoping that we too will undergo a positive physical and spiritual transformation, the beginning of a new era, instead of desperately trying to leave our mark in the sand as the waves come crashing to the shore, washing away our futile attempts.
Perhaps as we enter the New Year or the 14th Mayan Baktun, the many strong and resilient women of mother Armenia will themselves undergo a positive spiritual and collective transformation. And instead of simply uttering the infinite stacks of bad words that we have been forced to swallow, we must rise up to the challenge, not only determine that point of rebellion, but help map out a strategy to lead the way towards renewal, honor and redemption not only for the homeland but for, and in the name of, all our children.