BY ARMEN V. SAHAKYAN
The recent political developments and rhetoric coming out of Washington, DC indicate that political partisanship is at an all-time high, at least in recent American history. Data also backs this assertion.
It is pertinent to pause for a moment and reflect on what this all means for the Armenian-American community.
A 2017 PEW Research Center report documented a growing divide between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values. The report goes on to state that “the magnitude of these differences dwarfs other divisions in society, along such lines as gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education.” Arguably, it has only gotten worse since then.
Inescapably, the Armenian-American community has been a part of this trend. What is especially unfortunate though is that this polarization and partisanship do from time to time make their way into discourse over the Armenian Cause.
Who is the “true” patriot or the “true” Armenian?
The answer, of course, is anyone who believes in the Armenian Cause – or Hye Tahd in Armenian – regardless of their political convictions.
The Armenian Cause – as the name already suggests – is the struggle for our collective national ideals and goals. In the space-time continuum these goals may change, but our vision is one: to secure the long-term viability and prosperity of the Armenian Nation.
It is this Vision that has allowed us as a nation to live through foreign occupations and times of extreme hardship, persecution and pogroms, earthquakes, and worst of all – genocide – where close to two thirds of our people were brutally massacred in our indigenous historical Homeland and our properties destroyed, looted, or illegally confiscated by the Ottoman Turkish government.
Achieving universal recognition and condemnation of this international crime against humanity is but one step on our march for justice; ultimately aimed at fulfilling our one Vision.
When most of the nations of the ancient world have vanished into the annals of history, we have survived, with our wills strong to fight enemies – foreign and domestic – to stand for and preserve our identity, culture, and way of life.
Today, the sister republics of Armenia and Artsakh are under an illegal economic blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, with the failed attempt to starve off both countries.
Fervently engaged in the the last stage of genocide, Turkey and Azerbaijan continue to deny the veracity of the Armenian Genocide, posing a real geopolitical threat to the entire region as unrepentant, aggressive states. As evidenced by the war crimes perpetrated by Azerbaijani soldiers against civilians and soldiers during the 2016 Four Day War or the recent illegal invasion by Turkey into northern Syria, denial is a real threat that cannot be taken lightly. Armenia’s Prime Minister echoed this sentiment in a recent speech as well.
In the Diaspora, we’re dealing with a host of other issues, including identity preservation or combating hate crimes.
In the face of these and other adversities we need to band closer together, instead of creating schisms. Our challenges are real. And so are victories, when we are united around a common mission.
The First Amendment grants everyone the right to profess their political views and opinions freely, something we respect and cherish deeply at the ANCA. But it also poses a danger of causing extreme harm when it creeps into the discourse surrounding the Armenian Cause, an inherently bipartisan – or better – nonpartisan issue.
We must recognize this and put a firewall between partisanship and Hye Tahd. This is not to say that we do not accept criticism. To the contrary, we always welcome any constructive criticism or suggestion that would help us further improve and advance. As a grassroots advocacy organization, we do rely on tens of thousands of activists and volunteers day in and day out to help us promote our Cause as well as provide critical feedback and reports from the ground.
For the Republican and Democratic Armenians I have bittersweet news – the ANCA cannot and will not make you happy at all times. It hopefully won’t make you feel entirely sad either. Making one side always happy means that we have failed our community by wrongfully turning our Cause into a partisan issue.
Instead, we work tirelessly at maintaining parity and engaging with all pertinent parties to promote our (righteous, if I may) Cause. Conversely, we also do not shy away from calling out anyone – Democrat or Republican – who tries to undermine our community.
The overwhelming bipartisan support for H.Res.296 in the House of Representatives and the unanimous vote on S.Res.150 in the Senate affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide only go to illustrate this point.
The bottom line is, caught in between political realities and possibilities, our litmus test always is how well we advance Hye Tahd.
In conclusion, I leave you with the eloquent words of President Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Armen V. Sahakyan serves as the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region.