Euphoric, human flood, insanely well behaved, overwhelming, pride, second largest demonstration in Los Angeles history, thrilling, tremendous – these are all terms that I heard to describe the 130,000 people who started marching in Hollywood’s Little Armenia on April 24th, then massed in front of the building housing the Turkish Consulate General in Los Angeles. This number is real, uninflated! An engineer friend did some serious math on the visuals available and confirmed it.
People are really jazzed. And this is not just in LA or a consequence solely of the success of this mobilization of Armenian political will. It is a new coming of age, a turning point, much as was the 50th anniversary of the Genocide when we started directing our efforts outwards in a significant, popular, way instead of just mourning in churches.
People who were barely interested in Armenian political issues are now talking about reparations and lands, not just Genocide recognition. People who would mock my involvement are now excited and looking for ways to become engaged in our national political projects. In recent days, people who have never gotten involved have easily and quickly responded “yes” when I asked them if they wanted to get active, usually in the ANCA.
And, the effects of our efforts are evident in the non-Armenian sphere, too. Major publications are calling Turkey out for its denialism. Obama’s seven-time broken pledge has become the object of derision and jokes not only for right-wing commentators, but humorists and comedians of all stripes, further expanding the scope of awareness among the non-Armenian public.
We will continue to build on this. Small bits of good news appear. The divestment resolutions that have now come out of four University of California campuses should serve as inspiration and motivation for our students to pursue similar outcomes at more colleges and universities, private and public.
The political right-wing in the U.S. is finally coming around to our side, perhaps recognizing the similarities between the “Islamic State” of today and the Ottoman Empire/Kemalist Turkey.
Other circles of support must be built and added to a coalition that may one day become the new “American Committee for the Independence of Armenian” that was largely Vahan Kardashian’s creation (and predecessor of the ANCA) and active starting right after the first Republic of Armenia. Except this time, it will be forged as a “Worldwide Coalition for the Re-enfranchisement of United Armenia” (OK, so the name isn’t the catchiest, but you get the idea).
The movies and books that are entering the public’s attention will help build awareness of the Armenian cause. Perhaps a new Arshalooys Mardiganian (Aurora Mardigian) will materialize, or more aptly, be conceived, generated, to galvanize public sentiment. With that awareness, it will be incumbent upon all of us to engage our non-Armenian friends into a mass movement which will lead to justice for the Armenian nation.
While it exists there, the same excitement must be expanded to and deepened in the small communities which simply don’t have the numbers to create the kind of critical mass seen in places like LA, Beirut, and Buenos Aires. With a little bit of organizational support to small communities, we can reap huge political rewards.
This energy will be focused like a laser on Ankara in tandem with the little rays of light that are coming out of Turkish occupied Armenia, points further west in the Republic of Turkey, and all over the world. “Turks” in Tadvan, “Kurds” in Kghee, or hidden (Crypto-) Armenians in Hajin coming out and reclaiming their rightful heritage is a ray of hope. Turkish intellectuals saying reparations should be made to Armenians is a ray of hope. Kurds rebuilding our churches and restoring pre-Turkification place-names is a ray of hope. Germany unexpectedly accepting partial responsibility for the Genocide and recognizing it in one fell swoop is a ray of hope. Armenians from all over the world going to Bolis to march and rally on April 24, 2015 is a ray of hope.
Let’s keep finding and adding these rays through our own networks and integrating our efforts. Let’s all get active and work through the organizations of our choice. Let’s restore our dignity and rights.