BY PATRICK DAVARHANIAN
The existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is renowned for his research on the importance of accepting one’s true self to be fully content in life. Kierkegaard’s theory suggests that one of the lowest forms of despair stems from the rejection of one’s true identity. And yet, despite a century of awareness, countless individuals continually travel on this path of self- loathing and ignorance, which ultimately leads to self-destruction. Kierkegaard believes that understanding and accepting your true identity is the key to tangible happiness and can unleash your full potential. But there exists a serious disconnect between the Armenian identity and the Trump-Armenian supporter. It is apparent that this phenomena that many cannot seem to fathom, has its roots in denial, fear, and shame.
The driving factor in this phenomenon is a denial of one’s traumatic cultural history, coupled with a paralyzing fear of becoming a victim once again, and ultimately, exposes a feeling of shame, which is now associated with being an “other” in American society. When a person whose history is rooted in the collective suffering of the Twentieth Century’s first genocide supports an intolerant hate monger, they are essentially turning a blind eye to our people’s greatest calamity, and in so doing, disassociating with the very essence of the Armenian soul. Supporting a president who lies unconditionally while fighting for truth and demanding the world recognize historical facts, is inconsistent with Armenianness. Standing with someone who proudly positions himself as an authoritarian, a man who praises dictators, jeopardizes our affirming position on honesty and justice. But denial is commonplace with the Trump Armenian. It is the reason why Trumpism and Armenianness are incompatible. A more appropriate term, Trumpian, is acceptable because embracing Trumpism means you have embraced the erasure of the Armenian spirit.
Denial can be a powerful coping tool for someone grieving from the death of a loved one or trying to manage extreme change. But when a group of people collectively deny a generation of suffering and perseverance while endorsing a perpetrator of injustice, the consequences are devastating. The effects of these actions are considered denial but the cause is rooted in a deep sense of fear. When the children of immigrants, people who have lived the refugee experience and suffered housing and employment discrimination, can simply dismiss the heartlessness of a president who excludes the most vulnerable, they do so in an attempt to eradicate their own history of persecution. When they side with a man who has actively scapegoated immigrants while limiting legal immigration from countries he has shamefully labeled as shit holes, they side with the decades of oppression and mistreatments Armenians have faced. When Trumpians rid themselves of this burdensome history, they are complacent in the spread of hate and bigotry and they are inheriting the title of perpetrator. Shame and denial are powerful pieces in a puzzle designed with fear in mind.
Fear has the capacity to develop the most incomprehensible reaction in human beings. It can transform a caring, thoughtful person, into an alarmist and a combatant, consuming every ounce of rational thought. And it has the potential to turn a survivor into an exterminator. But we must not cower in fear, we must stand strong, united against injustice, as we always have. We must be on the right side of history because history repeats itself and it is unforgiving. Maya Angelou reminded us that “history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.” As Armenians, we need to understand our history. We need to combat inhumanity every single day. Whether it is about immigrant children in cages, hate crimes against minorities or shootings in churches and schools, we must always stand together, united against intolerance. We must once again erect a lighthouse of justice to help guide our nation’s ships that are stranded and in peril. But a man who revels in destruction is unfit to be a builder of justice. A man who snuffs out the light of hope with every breath he breathes is incapable of lighting a fire to lead the way.
A man who advertises a false sense of triumph is dangerous and ultimately self-defeating. Supporting a man consumed with winning will not translate to success for our community. Donald Trump praises an authoritarian Turkish president’s power grab, while staying silent when peaceful Armenians are ruthlessly attacked by government goons. He is a man who recently exonerated Erdogan’s bodyguards. He is a man who sides with thugs who bludgeoned peaceful Armenian protestors because he believes in a “tough man” approach when dealing with dissent. He is a man who regularly engages in xenophobic tirades and has close connections to Azeri millionaires. He is a man who was the lead architect of a racist campaign to smear our nation’s first black president. A man who has sexually assaulted women, lambasted minorities, and obfuscated our constitution. This is a man who not only denies the existence of the Armenian Genocide but lacks any knowledge of the complexity and splendor of the Armenian people. Despite overwhelming bi-partisan votes in congress, he has been afraid to stand up for the truth on every April 24th since he was elected and he will never stand with our community. He is a man who believes in himself and no one else. He has no sense of compassion, he is incapable of real leadership and he is undeserving of your vote.
Trump is not a champion for our community, or any minority group. He is an incompetent leader and a national disgrace. After George Floyd’s murder, he was unable to console a nation shocked by the inhumanity caught on video. He dismissed the overt brutality of the officer who knelt on a man’s neck long enough for him to die in front of our eyes. Do not make the mistake of thinking that we are immune to his hate. Do not for one second assume he would not kneel on your neck if given the opportunity. After all, he said he could shoot someone and people would still vote for him. When peaceful protestors demonstrated their 1st amendment rights in front of the White House, he gave the order to attack journalists and citizens while he hunkered in a bunker. He uses the bible as a ploy when he holds it above his head but he has never read a single page of that holy text. He does not ask for forgiveness, he does not pray, he is not humble and he will never comprehend the words of Christ.
This travesty, which is the culprit behind the Trumpian supporter, must be addressed and it must be treated if we are to evolve as a community. If we wish to foster a greater society, we must accept the entirety of our identity. We must understand that although we have suffered, we have also endured. Although we are diverse, we are one. We must not be dismissive of our collective history, and we cannot afford to be frightened by every sign of instability or easily shamed with every odd glance or stare. We can no longer allow our survivalist mentality to hold us back from our true potential. We no longer need to hide in the shadows and simply blend in to survive. Through decades of hardship and suffering, commitment and sacrifice, we have acquired the capacity to flourish. And If we can muster the courage to embrace our true identity, the foresight to invest in our inherent sense of compassion and justice, we will thrive. But we cannot thrive if we succumb to divisiveness and intolerance. We cannot be proud Armenian Americans and Trump supporters.
Patrick Davarhanian is a 32-year-old Armenian-American activist and educator. Born and raised in Glendale, he has worked in the field of education and philanthropy for more than a decade.