What Does It Mean to Be a Good Armenian Today?

Meghedi Melody Nazarian1
Meghedi Melody Nazarian

Meghedi Melody Nazarian

BY MEGHEDI “MELODY” NAZARIAN

As Diaspora Armenians, there is one thought that is always looming in the back of our minds: “Am I being a good Armenian?” Sometimes it’s a whisper and other times, especially around April 24th, it’s a louder thudding wrapped in great guilt. It’s been hammered in our brains since youth: speak Armenian, make Armenian friends, go to Armenian events, marry an Armenian, raise Armenian children, etc. But I realized something when I went to Armenia for the ninth time this year: this same guilt is not shared by Armenians born and raised there. It makes sense; seeing as they hail from the Motherland, they don’t feel as though they have to prove their Armenian-ness. In other parts of the world, we feel bad that we haven’t “done anything” — but be born in an “odar” land — in contrast to the Genocide survivors and martyrs. But we can’t help where we were born. Being surrounded by this sense of ease and security in their identity and culture made me a little envious. And it made me question: what does it mean to be a good Armenian today?

For me, this feeling of guilt is usually heightened when I’m not in Armenia, but it does lurk its head in the Motherland too, especially when I’m doing things that aren’t very typical “Armenian,” aka anything other than visiting our sacred sights. But just because you can’t go every year or move your life there doesn’t mean you’re a lousy Armenian. You can still do so much from afar. Or being half Armenian doesn’t mean you’re only half as good. I’ve met plenty of part Armenians in the Birthright Armenia program that connect with their Armenian side just as much as those with full blood. If destiny led you to find a non-Armenian partner, it doesn’t mean you’re a traitor. Sometimes it’s ok to choose true love with an “odar” over a mediocre life with an Armenian, as long as you keep the traditions alive. We all deserve to live an extraordinary life. I know plenty of non-Armenian spouses who have visited Armenia and are now apostles for our country and cause. It’s also ok to care about cultures other than our own. We don’t have to degrade other races to elevate ours. We can visit Armenia and Italy and China and Egypt — and have an equally meaningful time in all places. It’s not a competition, there are no medals being awarded for the “Armenian of the Year.”

We need to tweak the old rules of what it is to be a good Armenian, all the while respecting our traditions. We have to go beyond the typical narrative because we’re living in a vastly different time than our ancestors, who had no choice to be ethnocentric in order for our culture to remain intact. We carry that responsibility, too, but in this more global day and age, it’s important to think broader, to be more accepting of our differences. We have to fuse being a good Armenian with being an upstanding human being. And we need to let each person decide for themselves what is it to be a good Armenian. Naturally each picture will vary from the next, but we will be more dynamic because of it! Today we need to celebrate being an individual. By accepting and loving one another for who we are — and not judging for how Armenian we aren’t — we will inevitably become a stronger collective.

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13 Comments

  1. Vartan said:

    I think that you (or we or anyone contemplating or discussing this topic) needs to first describe, clarify or define what it means “to be Armenian” before you can ask what it means to be “a good Armenian.”

  2. David Karamian said:

    I agree with you Meghedi 100%. The world is changing and we must adapt!! My wife is of Italian background and she loves our food, music, art and culture many times more than Some Armenians I’ve met in Armenia as well as diaspora. We’ve traveled many countries in Europe and Armenia and we loved every place we’ve been to. We appreciate the collective diversity that we enjoy in this global environment.

  3. Maral Assilian said:

    Very true and excellent article
    I am mentoring a start up in Armenia and that’s gives me great satisfaction to be a good Armenian helping my country from the diaspora. I can share my story if you need and would like to connect
    To more people like Melody. Regards from Cyprus

  4. Hagop Varoujian said:

    Dear Meghedi
    I read your article with a heavy heart. I admire your sincere, intelligent and realistic views. I’m also very proud that we are blessed as a nation to have third, fourth generation Armenians born in the diaspora who feel and think the way you do! All is not lost! Not yet anyway!
    God bless.
    Hagop

  5. Hagop said:

    This just feels like a segue to former articles on this topic that essentially told Armenians to forget their history and any natural, useful feelings toward it that they had.

  6. amb said:

    All the existential wonderings and confusions of Armenians in diaspora would vanish if we all lived in Armenia. That should be the goal of each diasporan Armenian. Living in the diaspora engenders unnecessary, confusion-inducing questions that would naturally become moot once there is no diaspora.

  7. Dinosaurian said:

    This article is right, I should not care about other Armenians decisions on weather to remain Armenian or marry an odar.

  8. Michael S. Benlian said:

    Let me just answer few remarks previous made:
    In my opinion, an Armenian is that one whose both parents are preferably Armenian, who preferably speaks Armenian, who preferably marries an Armenian, preferably does not modify his last name and preferably maintains his Armenian religion. But, more importantly, he or she is the one who definitely does not deny his/her Armenian ethnicity, and who stands and supports Armenia, and Armenians and all Armenian issues anywhere and anytime in this world, and who fights for and demands Armenian rights, works tirelessly for the success of Armenia and Armenians, and under any circumstance does not distinguish between one Armenian and other Armenians irrespectively, because of religion, country of origin and the Armenian language spoken be it Eastern or Western.
    In short, A real Armenian is the ones who does not look to find differences amongst Armenian but instead attempts to bring and unite all Armenians so that any Odar will not succeed in dividing us and controlling us.
    I am Armenian and I love every Armenian regardless.

    “Many people strive for perfection, but some of us are born Armenian”

  9. Arthur said:

    Your article started really well, then went downhill for me. I agree and understand the demands of the 21st century are different but we should never let go of our strong Armenianess. Its okay to love and wish well for otars as we are Christians and one of the most hospitable people on earth but if we start “loosening” up as Armenins today, 50-100 years from now, us 7 million Armenian diasporans may fade away and disappear. I already see that happening today; it is already difficult having our kids speak Armenian at home or out, it is already difficult giving our kids the full Armenianess being in the diaspora, it is already difficult of them learning our full history in the diaspora. So, I believe today, we need to work even harder to stay Armenian.

    Lastly, I believe a “Good Armenian” is one who keeps their children Armenian.

  10. haygaz said:

    live in western diaspora is dangerous for armenians because it leads most of us to assimilation.
    here in France it’s piteous…
    We have to to stay strong:: good luck hayer jan

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