By Skeptik Sinikian
I’ve been more jumpy and excited the last few weeks than a 9-year-old the night before going to Disneyland for the first time. I try to hide it but nothing works. I’m following the polls with the fury of a Wall Street stockbroker reading a market ticker. I’ve tried to be cool and calm and pretend like I don’t care about the election outcome–but then I find myself obsessed with poll numbers–C-SPAN–and news articles that are only fanning the flames of this already emotionally charged election.
With less than two days to go from the November 2nd Big One–you would think that all my attention would be focused on following the candidates as they make their final pitches to the American public. But on Friday–I had a pleasant distraction. I came to work to find an email in my mailbox from a friend declaring that Armenia had won third place overall in the World Chess Championships. This may not seem like it’s big news to the average person–but trust me on this one when I say that this is huge. This is really huge–especially when you consider that the countries in the top four are Ukraine–Russia–Armenia–and China. Armenia–population hovering barely around 3 million–held its own in the Granddaddy of the chess world–the World Championship! They came out on top in one of the most strategically and mentally challenging games ever created by man.
When political scientists pontificate pedantically about world affairs–they often invoke chess analogies ( I almost sounded like Yegparian in that last sentence. Better watch myself). The greatest chess players of our time are also considered by many some of the greatest minds. Gary Kasparov (who is half Armenian) has gone toe-to-toe with the world’s most advanced computers to test which is smarter–man or machine. During the late 60s and 70s the rivalries between the Soviet Union and the United States over the chess boards were as intense as in any other arena of the Cold War. So where do we as Armenia’s stand? Well–in a world where Armenia’s are treated more often than not like a hacky sack at a hippie commune–it’s encouraging to see our people hold their own with the other great world powers. I’d rather have a medal in chess than ten Olympic medals in weightlifting or synchronized diving alongside Iran or Djabouti.
But there’s more to my excitement and it ties into the upcoming elections. As Armenia’s–we always root for the underdog. That is our lot in life. We are history’s underdogs. As I mentioned a few weeks ago–we are the Boston Red Sox of world politics and history. It’s through great sacrifice and facing insurmountable odds that we achieve great success. Would we relish this Chess victory as much if we were in the finals with say–I don’t know–Mongolia–Ecuador–and Liberia? No offense to my Mongolian–Ecuadorian–or Liberian friends–but the victory just isn’t that sweet unless it’s against the juggernauts. Rocky V would not be as exciting if instead of beating "the Russian," Rocky had knocked out a hairy Uzbek instead. Armenia’s love drama and what greater drama than facing insurmountable odds and coming out on top.
Soooo? here’s where we make the turn and discuss Campaign 2004. Bush is the obvious favorite. He’s the incumbent–a wartime President–leading (albeit narrowly) in most polls–(I don’t trust polls myself. Polls? Polls?? We don’t need no stinking polls!) and looks like he could win if he’s working on every cylinder. But he’s also got the worst record on Armenian issues of any President we have had in recent history–that’s including Bubba Clinton from Arkansas. Kerry on the other hand has a long history of support of Armenian issues not to mention the key role he’s played in fighting for the passage of certain resolutions (Genocide–Section 907–etc.). We can and should support this guy because he is so hot on Bush’s heels that you can see the panic in Bush’s eyes.
Now if the world of politics is a chess board–and we were to assign different groups a chess piece that would correspond with our overall political weight in this election–I would compare the Armenian community to a pawn. Our mobility is limited by our size and when up against any other piece on the board–we face an uphill struggle. Nevertheless–the pawn is an essential piece to any chess game–and often as the game progresses and we reach an endgame–there usually are a few pawns left on the board. Sometimes the difference in a very close game is determined by one or two pawns. So even though–Armenia’s may get discouraged by their size and numbers when compared to the other more popular and seemingly more influential groups in politics (Latinos–African Americans–Jews–Asians–etc.)–this election is headed toward an endgame and pawns are going to be key.
As the famous Estonian Chess player Paul Keres once said (if the internet didn’t exist–I’d never even know who Keres was)–"The older I grow–the more I value Pawns." Time for these pawns to step up on Tuesday and send Bush back to Crawford–Texas!
And folks–if you don’t want to take my word on why you should vote for Kerry over Bush–maybe you’ll be convinced by an Azeri viewpoint. Just visit www.azerbaijanforbush.com and ask yourself "Can we really afford four more years of the same?"
Sketpik Sinikian is merely a pawn in the game of life. He would like to remind every pawn–rook–queen–king–bishop–and horsey to vote on November 2 for anyone but Big Bad Bush. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit him online at www.sinikian.blogspot.com.