BY TAMAR KEVONIAN
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it fall, does it actually make a sound?” asks the old adage. Does sound exists without the tool which interprets it? By the same token, what is art without the audience to appreciate it as such? Like the tree and the artist, a writer is in the same position. Words are only words without the reader who sees them and attaches meaning to them.
The title of this column, People and Places, refers to the variety of people and the places that make up our Armenian community. The Diaspora is made up of many geographic locations with a myriad combination of people. The idea, conceived by my good friend Paul and fine tuned over a pasta dinner, is to highlight members of our community that we may not necessarily know. Our neighbors, the people we pass on the street or stand behind in line at the bank all have a private life of which we know nothing: the war veteran now limousine driver who spends some weekends babysitting sixteen year olds on their way to drunken parties or the tree climbing centenarian who reads every daily newspaper from cover to cover or the six year old with a broken arm waging a battle with the waves crashing at the beach, his own version of Don Quixote’s windmills. All of these people enrich the communities in which we live. They affect and are affected by the issues, events and occurrences that concern the Diaspora.
Occasionally an interesting topic will cross my path and, instead of profiling specific people, the purpose becomes the exploration of issues. The running themes this year were love, relationships, the Armenian-Turkish protocols, racism and ethnic identity. In the short of amount of space and limited number of words of this column, each subject is explored in small snippets; enough to make us think, perhaps question our current beliefs or prompt us to dig deeper into the subject to find an answer that that makes sense to each of us. Subjects such as “The Power of Media,” “Who Is An Armenian?” “The Incident” and “Where Are The Men?” explore the issues facing us both as individuals and as members of the greater Diasporan community. As such, they have elicited the most response – sometimes longer than the original column they are commenting on. I welcome the comments and read every one of them. Regardless whether the commentator agrees with the conclusion or the subject, each comment is an opportunity to create dialogue. And we’ve definitely had dialogue. Lots of it. From Pat’s lengthy response towards what he believes is the shallowness in today’s women, to Haro’s ongoing discussion with various other commentators about the nature of Armenian identity.
Then there are others who comment outside of the official channels. The letter from the prison inmate so moved by the ideas he reads that he is prompted to write a letter to the editor or the professor who is surprised and happy that anyone would actually acknowledge that one could be Armenian without being Christian since he himself is Bahai and “probably one of, if not the first, Armenian to be naturalized as a Japanese citizen.” Then there is Alexandre, who fervently believes that we must protect our image projected in mass media and was inspired to start a Facebook page for the positive portrayal of television characters and has written a letter to the networks encouraging them to do more. And let’s not forget Hovnathan, an Armenian version of his German name, is the son of German parents who, growing up embedded amidst a community of Armenians, wholeheartedly believes in his now adopted Armenian heritage and actively became a member of the Tashnag party to prove it, probably the only non-Armenian person to do so.
These and many other stories are archived on this paper’s website (www.asbarez.com) and available to be read and reread.
I thank each interview subject who opened their heart so we can learn a bit of who they are, each commentator who opened his or her mind to express his thoughts, and each reader who allocated the time to read the column to the end.
Without each of these elements People and Places would amount to nothing but a collection of words echoing in a vacuum without a sound.