BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
This piece is combination of five utterly non-interrelated paragraphs presenting five items that have “assaulted” my consciousness over the last few days.
I met Don and Eileen Garabedian while in a doctor’s waiting room. It turns out that Don’s grandfather settled in the Fresno area in the 1880s. Don is the second cousin of Monte Melkonian. Also, Eileen, an Irish-Catholic, told the story of meeting Don’s grandmother many-many years ago when they were first dating. It turns out that afterwards medz-mayr said “I like that odar”. We had a great conversation about things Armenian. This is the kind of Armenian moment I haven’t experienced in a long time. In the LA basin, especially in the Armenian ghettos, the “specialness” of such an Armenian encounter doesn’t maniifest in the same way as it does in parts of the world where our compatriots are fewer and harder to find. The “garod/karot” (longing) that develops when one lives surrounded by the ABSENCE of Armenians is a potent force that is often not appreciated by those who live in relatively dense Armenian communities. It was a heartwarming moment, and Don wants me to talk to his sister in San Francisco. It seems she is the most “Armenian” in their family. From a collective/national perspective, this couple is an example of those with whom we must reconnect and draw into the orbit our communities.
“Erdogan’s Worst Enemy Is His Only Ally” is a piece in Foreign Policy by Selim Sazak that makes the case that the biggest winner in Turkey’s recent municipal elections was the MHP (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, or Nationalist Movement Party). If this is true and the MHP is advancing politically, it’s not good news form an Armenian perspective. That party is the most right-wing, chauvinist, among Turkey’s major political parties. Sazak presents convincing arguments based on the current alignment of political forces in Turkey. He explains how Erdoğan has painted himself into a corner and is now reliant on Devlet Bahçeli, MHP’s leader, with nowhere else to turn because he has made enemies of former allies. Simply, according to Sazak, Bahçeli is now calling the shots for as long as Erdoğan is, and wants to stay in, power. Bahçeli may be a latter day Talaat, if not from a genocidal perspective, at least from a masterfully-working-the levers-of-power perspective.
Anna Hakopian/Hagopian, Nigol Pashinian’s spouse, spoke at the Alex Theatre last week. It was not about anything I could have predicted, since it was mostly about the “My Step Foundation” she has established to address a variety of needs in Armenia. Its description was given by Hovhannes Ghazarian, the executive director. I was left with a vague sense that it was intended to compete with the Hayastan All Armenian Fund, though upon further reflection, I realized this was not the case since its activities were more programmatic than infrastructural. Then I realized that it is unsurprising that a new political force in the country would want to make its presence felt by addressing social needs. Hopefully, it will not overlap too much with or undercut existing organizations. But going to back to the April 8 program, Anahid Aramouni Keshishian introduced Hagopian who spoke briefly then fielded a very wide variety of questions, including how difficult it was to be Pashinian’s wife, eliciting a lot of laughter. Unfortunately, the organizers resorted to the cowardly tactic seen increasingly frequently at events lately. They accepted only written questions. To her great credit, after the written questions “ended’ (excluding many that were submitted), Hagopian asked if there were any more people wanted to ask directly. She fielded over half a dozen questions in this format before the program was closed. Understandably, she side-stepped questions that were of a political nature. And, she deftly answered that this was not the time to enter the American political fray when a Trumpista asked a question intended to take a cheap shot at Congressman Adam Schiff.
I’ve noticed an encouraging trend. At least I hope it’s a trend. On various “TV” (in quotes because it also includes Netflix and such) shows, references to things of interest and import to Armenians have been popping up, and they are not only in the “Armenian mafia” category. I’ve decided to start noting them, and I will probably provide an occasional list of them. Perhaps someone could set up a web, Facebook, or other such page where anyone can report noticing these occurrences. The one I want to mention now is from the series “Taken” (Season 2 Episode 5). The incident in Washington DC when Erdogan’s bodyguards beat up peaceful demonstrators is referenced along with the video shot by Aram Hamparian. I hope this phenomenon is an indicator that our community has finally gotten over its “become a doctor, engineer, or lawyer” disease and our youth are entering the news/media/entertainment fields.
This last item is personal, so please forgive its presence, but I must pay respect in public. It is very fitting to do so. Just days ago I got a call from my ex-wife’s brother telling me she died in her sleep. Scarlet was a vivacious and friendly person, with all kinds of quirks and an acerbic anger when provoked, all packaged in an impishly childlike demeanor. Her loss comes as a shock to everyone, as borne out by friends who have called to offer condolences. “Unsettling” is the best word to describe what is being felt by many, for she was still relatively young and nothing indicated the possibility of such a death. It was in her sleep, and not even a typical Los Angeles car accident that would render it comprehensible. I now understand what people mean when a loved one dies and they say “I can’t believe s/he’s gone” – I had always thought it was just a corny thing to say, but now recognize its truth.
Keep reading, agitating, thinking and pursuing comprehensive justice for the Armenian nation. All of the above suggest it is absolutely necessary to act in that manner.