What an exciting victory! Now that the Democratic Party’s primary election has finally come to a close with Barack Obama emerging as the party’s presidential nominee, we must turn our focus toward the general election to determine which candidate is the most qualified and most capable of being a President who will restore American credibility around the world and who will restore our faith, both as Armenia’s and as Americans, in the Federal Government here at home.
The race is on: Barack Obama versus John McCain, two people with two strikingly different agendas, each of whom will undoubtedly take the future of this country and the world in a fundamentally different direction.
It is indisputable that McCain’s vision for the future is virtually identical to that of George W. Bush. So if we are satisfied with an unending and disastrous war in Iraq which diverts our attention from the true enemy, Al Qaida, if we are satisfied with having to foot the bill with our own taxpayer dollars for Iraqi reconstruction which was supposed to pay for itself, if we are satisfied with out-of-control gas prices and increased costs of living while our own economy tanks, if we are satisfied with a pro-life agenda which will undoubtedly trample a woman’s right to choose, and if we are satisfied with the government turning a blind eye toward the disenfranchised and middle and lower income citizens amongst us who cannot afford health care and who pack into County hospital emergency rooms for the simplest of ailmen’s at taxpayer expense, then we should probably support John McCain.
Yet, we are not and cannot be satisfied with the path on which the Bush-McCain agenda has taken us. Fortunately, however, we have an extraordinary alternative in Barack Obama, whose vision for the future is in stark contrast to all that has happened in the past eight years. Much has been said in recent months about the fact that Barack Obama is the only candidate who can truly be a bridge between issues that divide us as a nation. He has a unique ability to see things both from the black (minority) perspective and from the white (majority) perspective. Unlike most Americans, he has the unique ability to see the world, based on his own life story and his own life experience, as one which is capable of a peaceful global coexistence which strives for the greater good and survival of the planet.
Based on this world view, he will not be a president who will rush to war or who will prolong the existing war in Iraq. He will not be a president who will wave a sword at anyone and everyone who does not abide by the American way of life. He will, on the other hand, be a president who will work tirelessly toward world peace and prosperity, a world which in the long run will benefit all of its citizens.
Domestically, he will have the daunting challenge of restoring economic stability and growth in the face of skyrocketing gas prices and rising food prices which affect each and every one of us in our daily lives. He will have to find a way to promote social justice in the face of droves of people who cannot afford health care or a good education. He will have to restore American jobs which are being shipped overseas by huge corporations which think of nothing but their own profits and which are emboldened by tax breaks bestowed upon them by the Bush-McCain agenda. He will have to find a way to seek equality for all Americans, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or national origin.
We Armenia’s are well familiar with issues of discrimination and inequality, starting with the days after World War I when Armenian immigran’s were segregated and precluded from using “white” facilities in rural America, just as the African-Americans were until the civil rights movement took hold. It is important to recognize that we do have a commonality of interest with other minorities, and it is in our best interest to help elect a president who understands these issues and who is prepared to address them and resolve them.
Are these goals too idealistic and unrealistic? Perhaps. But they are a good starting point which will lead us all to embark on a new journey toward success in achieving them. After all, we must all do it together to accomplish our common tasks. As Barack Obama frequently says, we have much more in common than that which divides us, and in the end, we all want the same thing: to live our lives in peace and prosperity and to leave for our children a world which is better than it was when we inherited it.
And what about issues that are of unique importance to us as Armenia’s? Genocide; Aid to Armenia; Self-Determination for Nagorno-Karabakh.
On the issue of Genocide, we all know through the years that there have been many presidential candidates who promise during the campaign that they will recognize the Genocide. It hasn’t happened. So why should we believe it this time?
Compare and contrast: Barack Obama has issued several statemen’s acknowledging the Genocide and confirming that he will do so as President. Even during his eloquent victory speech in Minnesota, he stated, “It’s time… to rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That’s what change is.” John McCain, in all his years in the Senate, has been silent on the issue and is a staunch supporter of Turkey as a U.S. ally.
Most significantly, however, is the fact that unlike any other presidential candidate in history, Barack Obama had the courage and conviction to call on Turkey to acknowledge the Genocide and to end its blockade of Armenia while on an official U.S. Senate trip to Azerbaijan in 2006, well before he ever launched his presidential campaign and well before any Armenia’s were looking to him to take a position. He publicly called for Genocide recognition and an end to the blockade while on enemy soil! This was not pandering to Armenian-Americans, telling us what he thought we wanted to hear. This was a true expression of his belief in the issue, and he had absolutely nothing to gain by expressing it to a hostile audience other than earnestly trying to resolve the problem. And it was consistent with his policies on other international conflicts ‘s one of peace and reconciliation. He also publicly criticized Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and the Administration for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, simply for his utterance of the word “genocide” as being contrary to American ideals of promoting justice and historical fact. What did John McCain do? Nothing.
On the issue of aid to Armenia, we are grateful for the fact that since its independence in 1991, Armenia has been the beneficiary of significant amounts of U.S. foreign aid. However, this aid has dwindled during recent years, as the Bush Administration has placated Turkey by decreasing aid to Armenia and increasing it to oil-rich Azerbaijan. Barack Obama has publicly committed to expanding trade and targeted aid to help foster Armenia’s growth and development. John McCain has voted with the Administration on decreasing aid.
On the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, Barack Obama has publicly committed to the principle of self-determination for the people of Artsakh, a principle that is paramount to us and one that goes well beyond the policy of Bush-McCain which simply calls for compromise while allowing the Azeri blockade to continue with impunity and failing to address the will of the people on the ground.
It is therefore crystal clear that we, both as Armenia’s and as Americans, have only one good choice for this year’s presidential ballot: Barack Obama. Let us give him our unyielding gratitude for his support of issues important to us. Let us give him our support, both financially and otherwise, to help him win the general election. Let us help him succeed in embarking on the path toward a peaceful and just future. Let us put an end to the Bush-McCain policies which have hurt us both individually and collectively. And let us mobilize our community to join forces with Armenia’s for Obama, to join this historic movement, as Armenia’s and as Americans, to help elect the only presidential candidate who has the ability and the vision to accomplish our common goals.