It’s been a strange week, from hope and death to irritation and joy. Attending Vahig Gourjian’s funeral was something. There was a justly deserved huge turnout. Unfortunately, another memorial probably interfered with the attendance of some others of his earlier coworkers. Vahig was good, except the smoking that hurt him. One story I remember him telling me shortly after I’d moved to LA to take the ANC-WR Executive Director position was this: An Armenian from Iran’says to his co-conversationalist “me robeh goosheen bahee” (hold the phone a minute, using “gooshee”, the Farsi term for a handset). His stunned counterpart asks why he should remove his shoe, having heard “me robeh gosheegt bahee”. He was good at the jokes, and at organizing. At the hokejash, a friend since childhood vouched for these and other talents. At the risk of sounding hokey, he will be missed. Vahig’s death is also ominous in that it signals the onset of the loss of another generation of organizational leaders. My condolences go to his kith and kin.
Still on the people front, I had the welcome opportunity to meet Hranoosh Hagopian, the new Dispora Ministry head. I’ve been somewhat queasy about this whole construct. While the ARF has been an advocate of such an agency, even the best idea implemented wrongly or by the wrong people can lead to bad results. I’ve had a fear that power mongers in Yerevan might see this very important function as a means of attempting to consolidate power over the Diaspora. My nose now says it’s not all that bad. Based on Hagopian’s presentation, there is hope. She seems to be sincere in being willing to reach out to and work with the Diaspora. Others have been more optimistic, but I’m a bit cautious, not least because she seemed a bit too defensive when the issue of the use of the ruinous Soviet orthography for Armenian was raised by me and others. However, she did say she was an advocate of including the original orthography in the Republic of Armenia’s scholastic curriculum for upper grades. Let’s give her and this ministry all the support it will take to succeed, but also be watchful. I think it would have been better to appoint someone from the Diaspora to this position, but perhaps the next best solution is to make it a joint position or hire the next tier in the hierarchy from the Diaspora. Lastly, her emphasizing, as one of four pillars of the Diaspora Ministry’s work, support for dissemination of Armenian church tradition is outright unnecessary. While we do not have the same sharp division between church and state that is so stark in the West, we also ought not be using precious state resources for this purpose. Fortunately for our church, it does quite well in raising necessary funds and spreading its teachings. Any intrusion from the state would be just that, and probably damaging too.
The really good news coming from Armenia, by way of Dresden, Germany, is our second consecutive victory of the Chess Olympiad. It’s good to see that the brain drain from Armenia hasn’t hurt the depth of chess prowess built up during the Soviet era. This also puts a smile on my face thinking of all those Armenian friends who poke fun at me when they learn I lettered on my high school chess team. We seem to be doing a lot better in chess than in the physical sports realm. Anyone remember how we did in the Olympics last summer…?
Speaking of Armenian attitudes about, and how we present, ourselves, the constant, mindless repetition of notions born of our “we’re the first Christian nation” mindset is now being misinterpreted, or perhaps, mis-contextualized. In a November 17 LATimes op-ed piece “The ugly side of %u218beyond race’”, columnist Greg Rodriguez argues:
“That’s why in this era of anti-Muslim sentiment, Armenia’s tend to blurt out that they are Christians, and why, during WWII, Chinese Americans wore buttons that emphatically declared they were not Japanese Americans.”
Clearly, he doesn’t realize that our experience with Moslems, for good and bad, extends far beyond, and is much more intimate than, the current hiccup in American attitudes. Whoever’s been making commen’s around Rodriguez ought to provide him with the bigger picture, lest we come off as opportunistic, fearful, hate-mongers.
And who better to typify hate-mongers than those among the Turks assiduously engaged in Genocide denial. One of their latest pathetic refrains, from formal to informal (blog) settings is “how dare/could you accuse a whole people, especially us, of such a heinous crime?” Sorry Turkeys (forgive the seasonal pun). We haven’t time to serve as your therapist. Your country did the crime. Now do the time, with shrinks of your own. As to what you have to say to Armenia’s, it goes something like this “Sorry former neighbors and friends. How much do we owe you? Here’s your real estate back.”
We’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of the Sbeedag (Spitak for those accustomed to seeing it only in its more common English transliteration) earthquake, December 7, 1988. It’s a somber, sobering memory at a time when people are gearing up for a more joyous holiday time. Yet some seem to have no problem having a hoo-ha party on the eve of this sad date. Obviously, this doesn’t plumb the same depths of depravity as the utterly shameful habit some of our organizations have of holding inappropriate events in April. Yet, it’s also not even a case of a regular, annual traditional event of long standing which by accident of the calendar now falls at a bad time. I go to such a gathering every year on the first Saturday in December. However, given this multi-decennial anniversary, and the fact that the sponsoring organization has been nudged about the propriety by sensitive people, the choice to not be flexible date-wise is in poor taste. Can you guess who the organizer is? Here’s a hint, it’s one of my Spit-Rain Award winners; the Armenian Assembly.
Hopefully, as you read this, you’ve emerged from your turkey-eating induced stupor, are doing well, and are ready to have at the real Turkey.