Once there was and there was not …
“Go back where you came from,” said the elderly man entering the auditorium to see the Red Army Choir perform. It was 1989, and I was on assignment for Horizon Armenian TV, reporting on why Armenians were protesting the performance.
The USSR was turning away from a command economy and introducing economic and political reforms through glasnost and perestroika. Taking their cues from Moscow, Armenians in the centuries-old Armenian region of Nagorno-Karapakh voted for autonomy.
Stalin had unjustly carved Karapakh out of Armenia and put it under the rule of Turkic republic of Azerbaijan. Remapping the USSR was Stalin’s way to control its population. When Armenians exercised their new democratic rights, Azeris targeted Armenians to hold on to real estate.
Turks had a dream of one Turkic state from Central Asia to the Baltics, but Christian Armenians had been in the way during the Ottoman Era. A hundred years later, Soviet Armenians were in the way once again. Violence against Armenians erupted, but the Red Army was not protecting its citizens. Instead, it was on a PR tour.
Armenians in the US were livid.
For decades, the US had failed time and time again to recognize what had happened to my people in ancient Armenia as a systematic mass-killing, a Genocide. When this Genocide was continuing in 1989, there was not a blurb about it on the evening news.
Flash forward another two decades, and Genocide resolutions have failed time and again. The public remains uneducated, and last Thursday two Southern California appellate judges ruled that beneficiaries of insured-Armenians killed during the Genocide could not pursue their claims.
Why? The Court said since the US had not acknowledged the Genocide, pursuing these claims would “interfere with the national government’s conduct of foreign relations.” And why haven’t these resolutions passed? Because a foreign government, Turkey, spends millions of dollars annually lobbying against Genocide recognition.
Turkey bullies the State Department saying it will not be an emissary of the US in the Middle East if the US recognizes the Armenian Genocide. Even though Turkey gets its way, it still doesn’t come through when the US needs it most. Witness when Turkey would not allow the US to open another front from Turkey to take down Saddam Hussein.
Where are the independent thinking citizen-lawmakers of our democracy? Where is their sense of justice and fairness? Perhaps their loyalties are to those who make contributions to their campaigns to ensure they vote against these resolutions.
Turkish American groups donate huge amounts to congressmen who don’t even have Turkish-Americans in their districts. Lawmakers take the contributions and vote against the recognition of historic facts.
Then you have a district court denying the Genocide based on the fact that Genocide resolutions haven’t passed. And this is logical? Is this democracy? Is this why a 21-year-old American-Armenian is told to go back where he came from? Where would he go back to?
Our grandparents’ villages were razed a hundred years ago. Our churches and graveyards were either destroyed or continue to be destroyed. Our poets and doctors were killed. Our musicians were sent to insane asylums. There is no ‘there’ to go back to.
Why didn’t this elderly man know that out of this Genocide came the American-Armenians who helped make our country what it is?
My people fought our nation’s wars, labored in its factories and farmlands. They built dams to hold back rivers. They designed air traffic control systems. They invented his automated bank machine and the most critical parts of the automobile he drives. They created the technology that scans his body to cure his illnesses. They gave him Cher, Vegas mega-resorts, cuisine, fashion, films, and journalism.
Why didn’t this man know that everything and everyone is connected? Like the Internet. The elderly gentleman. Failed Genocide resolutions. Genocidal Janjaweed in Sudan and Chad. Chaderjian. Me. You.
And three apples fell from heaven: one for the storyteller, one for him who made him tell it, and one for you the reader.
p.s. and Kim Kardashian.