BY ELIA BILEMJIAN
So here we are once again, amid the passing of yet another April 24th, the time of year when many will suddenly become active for a day or week, if even that, and then move on until maybe next year. Don’t get me wrong, let’s not stop our marches, protests, and posts to raise awareness and demand justice! But as impressive and inspiring as all of this collective energy is during this essential commemoration of survival against all odds, I ask you, friends: why not continue this enthusiastic spirit at large throughout the year?
I understand, of course, that identity can be complex; some may not identify with being Armenian to the same extent. And obviously, not everyone will have enough time or resources to get involved. Regardless, there are way too many of us for whom this is not the case, who potentially could and would want to, but don’t. This will easily change with more awareness.
We can’t afford to fall victim to a false sense of comfort with the status quo. It’s just no longer enough to solely “be” Armenian. Continuing on with only speaking, writing, joking, eating, singing, and dancing Armenian neglects our unresolved, dare I say, existential crisis of national perpetuation. Survival was the revenge of our ancestors; ours, in addition to surviving and thriving, must be to act with a resolute commitment to our cause for restitution.
The centennial two years ago produced massive ripples of unity and determination across the globe. This catalyst must not dwindle into obscurity, must not be in vain. We refuse to merely wait on world powers to settle our national liberation and prosperity. Along with allied groups joined in solidarity, we must place our fate dearly into each of our own hands, the only hands that will bring real development. Recognition is not the end-all, be-all.
In case you are not aware, rectification for the genocide is only one among several issues on our plate. From the looming threat of war and incessant stalemate casualties of our soldiers by Azeri aggression at the Artsakh border, to the systematic marginalization of the Armenian-majority population of Javakhk in southern Georgia, and from the precarious situation of Syrian-Armenians living in what was once the major post-genocide haven of Aleppo, to the suffocating repression of hidden and no-longer-hidden Armenians left behind in our purged homeland inside of eastern Turkey, our struggle is as alive and current as ever, people.
Let’s draw inspiration from Garo Paylan, the lone Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament who fights for democracy in the dreadfully oppressive state. By acting boldly and explicitly with an identity that is considered to be the “other of the other” of that land, he puts his life on the line for the rights of not just Armenians, but also other at-risk minorities in Turkey.
The pain of injustice is magnified by the pain of general indifference and complacency advancing the large-scale march of the Diaspora onward towards assimilation and cultural erasure. Even if the world may no longer be aware at this moment, do not forget, our history and culture are too rich and beautiful to be allowed to suffer from history dealing us shitty hand after shitty hand. I am positive that once more people become conscious enough of the background and reality, they will easily get on board. Believe it or not, there are even several “odars” fascinated enough to make a difference while living in and working from Armenia. Just look in the right places and you will be amazed at all the endeavors taking place.
I wish more of us would understand how fortunate we are to have an independent country, the only real home to our identity and culture, the home that most seem to only acknowledge distantly as some foreign, abstract entity. Erase from your mind any and all negative misconceptions and rumors about Armenia. Believe me, you will not understand until you go there for yourself. Our home is much more than you can imagine. It’s much more than a vacation spot, much more than a donation recipient. Do not restrict yourself from engaging with our nation. However much pain you find, you’ll find twice the love and sincerity. However much pessimism you find, you’ll find twice the potential and burgeoning innovation.
We must stop taking our identity for granted, the same identity that was almost stripped off the face of the earth not too long ago. We must not be Armenian by convenience or circumstance. We must be everyday Armenians, not just April 24th Armenians. Understand what is at stake, what our grandparents and great-grandparents sacrificed and persevered for. They did not give up for us, so let us not give up on them or our mission.
It’s very refreshing to see a spark of revival from The Promise, and I am hopeful that this resurgence actually manifests in meaningful engagement. I expect great things from our established and powerful communities. I am confident that we can do much better and excel.
The time is now for us as the new generation to shape our destiny. There is a wealth of organizations, volunteer programs, projects, and initiatives. I urge all of you to join or participate in at least one of them, or take part on your own terms even. Put your passions to good use. Find your place or calling in the movement and contribute with your unique skills, talents, and interests. Join me on this rewarding and righteous path of nation-building, towards a brighter future and prosperous Hayastan. Հայեր, միացէ՛ք: