BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
On the first anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, I heard, inter alia, an interesting remark by a professor being interviewed. He mentioned that another writer had referred to Haiti as the “Republic of NGOs.”
It struck me that the Republic of Armenia has been through an earthquake, the remediation for which is still, 21 years on, incomplete, much as Haiti’s rebuilding efforts are deficient. But more interesting were the political ramifications of the NGOs. Because the Haitian state has been weak and corrupt, foreign governments have circumvented it when delivering aid to the country. Perversely, though unsurprisingly, this has further weakened the state, rendering it less able to perform its functions in the aftermath of the earthquake.
There are numerous NGOs operating in Armenia, and aid flowing from the outside to the country, quite often to and through these same operations. The parallels are obvious. The question is, are we contributing to the weakness of the Republic of Armenia’s statehood?
There’s another timely question begging to be asked, in light of the hits we’ve been taking over the last year or two— electoral-politically (Armenian candidates losing races for office, often because of other Armenians running as spoilers), public relations-wise (Kobe Bryant, Obama’s un-kept promise), legislatively (H.Res. 252), legally (Southern Poverty Law Center and University of Minnesota cases), internationally (protocols), etc. WHAT NEXT? Where should our community’s energies be focused, politically, economically, or otherwise? Should we do more resolutions? If so, what should they say? More of the same, or should we have substantially different content, say “return occupied Armenian lands”? Should we concentrate on the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk? Should we just work on strengthening Diasporan institutions? How about focusing on, targeting, some of our enemies and taking them down—electorally or in other venues as appropriate?
As the result of a concerted effort by the political right in the U.S., government is now seen as a problem, not a means to a solution. The effort to create this mindset began at the same time as moon landings, interstate highway system construction, and good public schooling. So it’s clear this was a cynical effort that has now met with success. Partly because this mindset is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and partly because of human nature, TODAY, there is some truth to this vile notion.
Human nature came into play thus: when you become recognized as the best, often, there’s a tendency to slack off, and to some degree that has happened with the various levels of government in the U.S. Also, there is a palpable disengagement from government by citizens. Instead of recognizing that WE are the government (unless we let it run off unchecked), people have become very suspicious of the institution, again, partly because that’s the line society has been fed for three-four decades and partly because of complacency and generational change. The questions now are how and when we can we get out of this so citizens reclaim their lost participation and pride in Lincoln’s government “of the people, for the people, and by the people.”
The fourth question is prompted by the Tucson tragedy. Political assassination is not a common in event in the U.S. Yet it just occurred, likely spurred at least partially by the level of venom spewed by the political right. Representatives of that same end of the political spectrum have been quick to speak out in an effort to limit damage to their cause. HuffPostHill reported that:
“Neil Cavuto, on Fox News this afternoon, defended his network by arguing that there was no cable bickering in 1865, yet John Wilkes Booth was still mad enough to shoot Abraham Lincoln. That was the most cogent argument that would be heard for the next hour, as Glenn Beck came before the camera to say that Cupid and Christ on the cross are symbols of violence, too, and so should share in the blame.”
Clearly, they’re afraid of the potential backlash so they’re pulling out all the stops. But what they should be more worried about is— what if the left starts to arm itself in the same way as the right currently is? What kind of clashes might that lead to?
Remember, the original proponents of ideologically based armed overthrow of government came from the left. Back then, governments clearly tended to stand at the right end of the political spectrum and quashed many such efforts. Governments are no longer so oppressive. What kind of bloodshed might that lead to in the streets? What would happen to the Armenian community? Might we relive the kind of tragedy that befell us as we ended up on both sides of Lebanon’s 1958 civil war?
If you’ve got some answers, please send them along.