The Public Servant

No matter how well we know someone they still possess aspects of their character or personality that will surprise us. In this case, Ardy managed to do just. It wasn’t so much the announcement of his engagement and the manner in which he went about it but the convictions behind it.

“It was a long time coming,” he says of his decision to propose to his long time girlfriend. He chose Easter as the occasion to present her with a ring. “It’s my favorite Christian holiday.” This was the statement that caused the most surprise.

“Easter is the whole point of being a Christian,” he says giving a clear indication of the depth of his religious conviction. “It’s the whole rebirth. Life after death. Eternity. That you become something bigger than you were on this planet. You’re transcending to another level. It’s to remind you that this isn’t what it’s about. The point of this life is for us to plant trees so that successive generations can enjoy the shade. That’s what Easter is about.”

This topic of conversation is the first time Ardy and I have spoken of such things. During the course of our friendship I’d never suspected the religious bent of his thoughts. Usually the topics of conversation range from social and community issues and events to personal thoughts on life and how to live it.

“Christ died in his prime. I am now almost older than when Christ died. The guy would’ve been out partying and hitting on women and drinking like nobody’s business, and he got crucified,” he says displaying his unique sense of humor. “Why? Because he’s like ‘Dude, this isn’t what it’s about.’ What it’s about is what’s going to come afterwards. And more importantly, what’s going to come afterwards for you.”

“How do you connect that idea to proposing to your girlfriend and starting a life together?”

“We both like Easter for similar reasons,” he says of the fact that they both consider the holiday to be their favorite one. “For example, for our wedding we’ve already decided that we’re not going to give any party favors. We’re going to make a donation to a charity. Because the wedding will be so close to Christmas, one will for people who are homeless around Christmas time and one for Hayastan [Armenia]. Obviously [both are] causes that mean a great deal to both of us. It’s just who we are. One of the many reasons why I love Courtney – a significantly strong reason – and one of the reasons why I know she will be the mother of my children, is that she, like me, is a Democrat because she’s Christian, not a Democrat in spite of being a Christian,” he says. In one sentence he’s woven his love for his fiancé to his love of God to his civic duty and feelings of empathy for other members of the human race.

He sees the puzzled look on my face with and goes on to explain in more detail. “When you think of Christian values or you think of Christianity, which political party do you think of? You think of the Republicans. Most people do,” he begins, “The Christian Right. The Christian Coalition. What they espouse has nothing to do with the core values of Christ. Christ would want universal health care, Christ would want us to help the poor, Christ would want us to help our fellow human beings and not start wars. That’s not a Republican agenda. That’s more of what a Democratic agenda should be.”

“That’s an interesting parameter for wanting to marry someone.”

“It’s who I am, a political person.”

“I never knew that you’re very Christian and that you have politics permeating throughout the basic framework of your life.”

“Yeah?” he asks, “Isn’t that how everyone is?” and gives a small chuckle.

Ardy’s assumption that everyone has strong beliefs in the three major areas of life: the inner life, the private life, and the public life, is refreshing. Although he espouses these ideas, he still doesn’t think he lives up to them all the time and finds it to be a struggle sometimes. “I was in San Francisco this past weekend and I felt bad because every ten feet a homeless person asks me for money. My core values are ‘I have to help every single homeless person.’ But you can’t.”

“Is Courtney comfortable with your political aspirations?”

“I don’t think she was at one point, I think she is now. That’s one of the reasons we broke up, because I put my ability to help other people before my commitment to helping myself or helping people I love in my immediate surroundings,” he says. During their long courtship, Ardy struggled with the idea that the woman he loved was not Armenian. His ethnicity and his desire to serve his community are some of the main reasons he chose public life. He spent several years exploring what all this meant to him on a personal level and concluded that he was using the fact that Courtney was not Armenian as an excuse.

“When you’re in elected politics, you wake up after an election and it hits you how many people put their confidence and faith in your abilities. You ask yourself lots of questions, one of which is ‘Why did they vote for me? What is that they see in me that I don’t necessarily see in myself?’For me, having been elected by a significant proportion of Armenians in the community, her background and her ability to adapt within an Armenian community were definitely things I would question and I had issues with. I now realize I don’t. You know what, at the end of the day it’s more important for me to have kids that grow up as good human beings and grow up reflecting the values we will instill in them than to be Armenian. If my kids grow up speaking, reading and writing Armenian but they end up going and raping a kitten, I’m not going to be proud of the way I raised them. I’m not going to be like ‘mashala, kone hayaren ge khosin’ [good for them, at least they speak Armenian]. I want my kids to be good human beings and I know that this person will raise my kids to be good human beings.”

This is a new phase of life for Ardy. One he is very much looking forward to and has been for a long time but was afraid of embracing. “Marriage with Courtney was always within my reach, it wasn’t a question of convincing her. I had to grow myself and realize what was important to me and what wasn’t.” Now he knows he’s ready for it because he ready to give up anything he has, including title or position, to be with her. “Being city clerk isn’t that important where I’d do it at the price of not being with Courtney.”

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