Telethon/Moving on

The news is good, $35,000,000 raised through this year’s Armenia Fund Telethon. That’s more than double last year’s take, which itself was record setting. This marks quantum progress from the early days, when this project was the “Artzakh Fund Telethon”, and a very few hundred thousand dollars made us all giddy. But this is the big picture. As always, the devil’s in the details. Let’s break things down into the good and bad.

A novel component of the telethon’s fundraising efforts was the bike ride along the California coast. This is something near and dear to my heart, and I regretted not being able to take the time off to participate. More such narrow focus efforts would engage those who have a particular interest. Why not a hike-a-thon, eating contest, Star Trek watching marathon, an online game competition, etc.?

The other good news is the coming of financial age of Armenia and the “newest” part of the Diaspora. Fully $30 million of the total raised came from pledges secured through President Serzh Sarkissian’s efforts with 120 individuals from among the newly rich in Armenia and Russia. It’s welcome progress to see this kind of engagement among our wealthy class. This has not always been the case historically, so much so that a century ago, for a brief period, money had to be raised through force of arms.

The flip side of the $30 million is that only five million dollars came from the older parts of the Diaspora. The geographic details/breakdowns are reported in this paper. This may be due, in part, to the economic turmoil that hit the western world sooner and more severely than the former Soviet Union. It could also be a result of some elemen’s in our communities constantly harping on money lost to unscrupulous officials in the process of building Artzakh’s infrastructure. I wouldn’t be surprised if some money disappeared in this way. But is it a significant sum? More importantly, is it worth risking the building of a new country for this relative pittance? Is it worth souring people on what is otherwise a very positive, pan-Armenian effort?

The five million dollar question leads me to the one unfortunate choice, to my mind, made by the Telethon’s organizers. That was the prominence given to Terry Phillips, author of Murder at the Altar, a book that rehashes the assassination of Ghevont Tourian, the then (1933) Primate of the Armenian Church in America. This is such a deep wound in the flesh of our communities that it has barely scabbed over during the last two decades. It is far from completely healed. Rehashing that topic now serves no purpose but blood-money-making, publicity mongering, or worse by the author. Perhaps this guy’s presence was a turnoff too. We should really be careful about these kinds of things. It’s of course his right to write whatever he pleases. But, just as I’m often confronted with backlash from what I write, he should be cognizant that there’s a price to be paid for the damage he’s chosen to cause the fabric of our community.

Let’s keep giving ’til it hurts to build our infrastructure and political strength in Armenia and the Diaspora, but wisely and sensitively.


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