BY AREK SANTIKIAN
It’s a simple idea.
The straightforward concept that we can work cooperatively toward shared aims.
But it’s also sometimes a stumbling block.
There are, sadly, still pockets left in our community that cynically refuse to believe that accomplishing anything is possible, especially if it involves Armenians working together.
Despite all we’ve achieved and our long track record of real results
In the face of the respect and reputation we’ve earned.
There are still those who – against all the facts – stubbornly refuse to believe that the Armenian American community has emerged as a powerful voice in the American political arena.
Government officials, Senators and Representatives, editors, reporters, columnists, and even – perhaps especially – our enemies in Ankara and Baku and their allies, respect, sometimes fear, the deep well-spring of Armenian American pride in our identity, the growing network of Diasporan Armenian political power, and our determined drive for progress in advancing the Armenian Cause.
We’re near the top of every serious listing of powerful ethnic groups. But, sometimes we’re the last to believe in our own power.
Maybe this cynicism is understandable. We’ve had a hard history, and, for far too much of it, those who have sought to organize us or speak in our name did so for personal interests or in the name of foreign powers.
Given the trials and torments of our past, skepticism can be a healthy instinct, but not when it fails to give way to facts. And the facts are clear.
Criticism. Questions. Doubts. These are all great. There’s certainly plenty of grounds for criticism in all aspects of our community life, and we all benefit from careful scrutiny. But let us also recognize that those who recklessly spread cynicism obstruct the very teamwork that’s so desperately needed to meet the challenges of our generation.
Rigorous self-examination is vital to constructively addressing our complex challenges, but only when this criticism is in the service of our shared aims, not when it become, in itself, a substitute for collective action.
This is especially true when a small minority of the most cynical among us cannot keep their lack of faith to themselves and somehow feel compelled to spread – often with zeal approaching the evangelical – their gospel of powerlessness to everyone within their reach.
We’re fated, it seems, to always have these dark-spirited folks in our midst. Perhaps that’s inevitable.
What is in our control is how the rest of us respond to those who preach hopelessness.
We can, with world-weary resignation, breath a cynical sigh, and allow the fatalists among us set a gloomy tone of our community life.
Or we can rise above the role of helpless subject, and gladly accept the mantle of responsible citizen.
The choice is clear. For our own dignity. In light of the challenges we face. Given the enemies we’re confronting. We cannot, as a matter of survival, continue to assign to the preachers of powerlessness a wisdom they clearly don’t deserve.
The assertive path is a harder one. Certainly a riskier one. It’s what President Theodore Roosevelt meant when he wrote these telling words:
“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.”
If you’ve come this far, or more accurately – because you’ve come this far – you surely see the wisdom of Roosevelt’s words.
It’s easy and even fun sometimes to be a cynical finger-pointer.
It’s also really lazy.
And when its gets contagious, it can actually be dangerous.
We cannot afford to signal to our community, and particularly our youth, that’s it’s OK to just sit on the sidelines and complain.
Rather, we should encourage fellow Armenians who are still on the sidelines to join us in the arena. And there’s no better way for them to start than by donating to ANCA Telethon 2012: Click here to learn more or to donate: ancatelethon.org.