BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Imagine for a moment that an executive order, similar to the one signed by President Donald J. Trump on Friday that curbs the entry of foreigners into the United States was in effect in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide.
Armenian-Americans who passionately boast about their ancestors being survivors of the Genocide who were welcomed by the United States and were allowed a second chance in this country would probably not have been born to recount their family’s story of survival and the opportunities through which they established themselves as responsible Americans and torchbearers of the Armenian Cause.
The same United States, which has progressed into the 21st century, also welcomed Russian-Armenians displaced by the Nazis after World War II; Armenians who were impacted by the Lebanese Civil War and the Iranian Revolution; as well as those who endured hardship in Iraq (before and after the US invasion) and Syria. Let’s not forget that some of the aforementioned countries, especially Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, became safe havens for hundreds of thousands of the Armenians fleeing the Armenian Genocide, who for generations called those countries home.
Our more than century-old existence as a vibrant and active community in the Unites States has become possible due to the American brand of acceptance and opportunity that has allowed us to prosper and flourish in this country.
In 2014, the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region launched the “America We Thank You” campaign to pay tribute to the US efforts to rescue and salvage hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Genocide through the Near East Relief effort, and honored the Near East Relief Foundation the same year during its annual banquet.
Last fall, the ANCA-WR also recognized the Kerr family for its leadership in the Near East Relief effort by bestowing Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his family the organization’s “Humanitarian Award.”
So it was poignant to read Steve Kerr had voiced his opposition to the executive order, given that his father, Malcolm, was killed by two gunmen in 1984, while he served as president of the American University in Beirut.
“I would just say that as someone whose family member was a victim of terrorism, having lost my father, if we’re trying to combat terrorism by banishing people from coming to this country, by really going against the principles of what our country is about and creating fear, it’s the wrong way of going about it,” Steve Kerr was quoted by Guardian on Monday.
This past week has shown that a Trump presidency is fraught with surprises and unconventional approaches that at a stroke of a pen can upend the most unsuspecting individuals or groups. As has been the case in the past, our advocacy organizations must be alert to immediately address these issues and get in front of matters such as Friday’s executive order.
Regardless of our political affiliations, as a nation that has experienced gruesome injustices and continues to fight against it, we must extend the same courtesies that were extended to us, or our ancestors, and not allow the tenor of the day to dictate our posturing without prejudice.