BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
This year’s litany of lameness started on April 14 for me (and it’s not just the events that earn this description). I’m referring to Genocide commemorative and related activities of course. As usual, the events so far seem cookie-cutter trite, as though most of us have left our imagination, inspiration, and intellect locked away in some safe-house. There are small exceptions, but…
The first event I went to was a book signing, held at the new Diocesan facilities in Burbank, John Ahmaranian’s Turkey Has Recognized the Armenian Genocide. Unfortunately, I had the time wrong, and arrived for the discussion part only (talk about lame). It seemed lively, and the topic, based on contemporaneous sources, interesting. The turnout was good, 57 people, considering what book signings usually draw, and especially since the same author is making a total of three appearances over a span of two weeks. Interestingly, there was nothing on the April 15th- this based on Armencal listings for Southern California.
April 16th found me in Pasadena’s ARF/ANC/AYF/ARS/Hamazkayin event featuring a screening of a video assembled by Richard Kloian, of those parts of “Auction of Souls” or “Ravaged Armenia”— Arshalooys (Aurora) Mardiganian’s story in film— that have been found and salvaged, to date. Filmmaker Eric Nazarian’s remarks helped shed light on how she was exploited in the process of making the film (in which she starred as herself) leading to a nervous breakdown, a lawsuit, and utterly shameless behavior on the part of her “patrons”. He also explained why finding extant copies of this film was difficult—the stock used at that time was “nitrate film” and very unstable, degrading rapidly so that today, much of filmdom’s early years is threatened. I was very glad to attend, since I’d missed an earlier screening and this has a personal connection for me. My own grandmother told me of having the book that was published at the time, and lending it to someone, never to get it back… Then, when I moved to LA, imagine the thrill I felt when I had the opportunity to meet this great woman. Though she wasn’t very talkative at that point in her life, and was alone and lonely. Sad… It’s also sad that turnout to this event was barely 200 people, a lot of people missed out on a good event.
Other commitments on April 17 kept me from checking out Orange County’s annual “Walk for Remembrance” which otherwise would have been possible since no nearby events were scheduled for that day. That’s odd, relative to other years. This year, a lot more LA-basin events seem to have been scheduled densely on the 23rd and 24th. That’s sensible on one level. But on another, it makes things difficult for people who might otherwise travel a little farther to “do their duty” if personal conflicts precluded them from attending something nearby on those dates. Remember, this is the LA-mega-plex Armenian community, not a Fresno-San Francisco or Chicago-Detroit travel situation.
The 18th had Glendale ANC’s annual blood drive going strong, with over 50 donors ultimately giving. That’s a good showing as blood drives go. I gave recently in another setting where only 39 donated, and that was deemed a good number. On a side note, I came to a handy conclusion that day, “Never give an idiot a rule”. A donor wanted to discuss the recent 43rd Assembly District election with me. His turn came and we both walked into the plastic compartments set up for “privacy” when going through the paperwork required prior giving blood. The Red Cross staffer said I had to leave. My conversationalist had no problem with my being there, and I told her so. She got a supervisor, who robotically uttered the “rule”. Along the way, I heard the protestation from them that “this is our rule”. Absolutely no common sense allowed. The object of the protection provided by the “rule” has no qualms about my presence, what else do they need? Then, they had the nerve to say “if you’re going to be disruptive…” of course my response was “you’re being disruptive”. Anyway, never give an idiot a rule…
Later that Sunday afternoon, a treat awaited me. At the three-speaker symposium moderated by Richard Hovannisian, a great deal of new and illuminating information was imparted. I can’t possibly do it justice in this compact framework, but here’s the barest of samplings. Matthias Bjornlund spoke of his findings in Scandinavian archives, a relatively untapped resource. His revelations and comments regarding current Genocide politics in those countries exposed a far less altruistic mindset than is usually attributed to those countries. Wolf Gruner from Germany documented Genocide awareness in Germany during the interwar period, demonstrating that the notion of “forgottenness” undergirding Hitler’s oft-quoted line from his Obersalzberg speech is not accurate. The third speaker, Ughur Umit Ungor , was the most interesting for me. A Turk raised in Holland speaking essentially perfect Amer-English, who looked almost identical to an Armenian I know. His research focuses geographically on Dikranagerd (Diyarbekir) and functionally, on the lower level criminals than the central government officials we usually hear about. His documentation is the type of work we need to “follow the money” to restore the property (of all kinds) stolen by Turks (other than on the governmental level- a slightly different proposition) and land to their rightful owners’ descendants. This guy’s research will be well worth reading. He anticipates publishing a book soon.
The City of Glendale’s now traditional weeklong programming included a cultural event of music and poetry billed as running from 6:30 to 9:00 pm on the 19th. While I was “lame” to arrive at 8:00, it was odder still to enter the Glendale Library’s auditorium and see a dozen people remaining, and everything almost cleaned up. Sunder Ramani (the Republican contender in the 43rd State Assembly District) and his campaign manager arrived as I exited. They had read the same times…
On the 20th, I attended the brief ceremony and presentation of a Genocide proclamation by LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. This was a pretty standard affair. But there were almost no Armenians present in the huge meeting room’s auditorium. There couldn’t have been more than about 30. About a dozen of those were clergy, and a few more from the lay nomenclatura and organizational staff. It was EMBARASSING.
In the evening of this day, the Burbank Human Relations Council held its annual Holocaust Remembrance, as always, the Armenian Genocide, along with others, was mentioned, too. This year’s novelty was the presentation of a mini-documentary produced by the local NBC affiliate about a survivor who was a teenager working in Oskar Schindler’s factory. This was moving and relevant with its local connection—that survivor had settled in Orange County served as a teacher in a local school district for four decades. This kind of material is what we have to produce regarding the Armenian Genocide to maintain its currency, relevance.
The ninth annual Genocide commemoration organized by the Armenian Clubs of Glendale Unified School District’s high schools was standard fare. That’s worrisome. It’s not the quality that’s at issue, the overwhelmingly cultural presentation— song, music, dance, theatrical, and video—was good. But it felt much like any other event we go to organized by us old fogies. It’s worrisome that kids of tha
t age somehow end up reproducing so closely what preceded them. We need more novelty, things to catch people’s attention and energize them in this world where our attention is constantly being grabbed by petty, mercantile matters.
Something’s missing. I wish I could pinpoint what it was and propose a remedy. Maybe you’ve got it. Please tell us.