Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Poem

Here's a poem I wrote a while ago, it can be found here



by Levon

If only I was a poet.
I could portray the earth's entire beauty
And have my pen draw nature.
But instead of lilies I find ivy
That shrouds my potential
And instead of the wind's soft touch,
I feel the heat from the fire of my trapped soul

If only my stroke could show me my love
And tell her that I miss her gentle touch.
Yet my heart seems to take me to quiet pastures
Only to lead me to a cliff and bid me adieu
For you, my bitter flame, my sanity hangs on the edge
Begging you to show me my future, so that my soul can rest today

If only I could create a tower of words
Whose tip can pierce the sky
And create a tempest among stars
My great yet unreachable goal
Is it possible that my hidden dreams can transform?
So that my unanswered prayers find me once again?

If only I had a golden tongue
Whose words would sprout flowers in the air
And carry with them the seeds of my soul.
But No, the wind does not carry my words out
But brings me the chill of despair

I wait for fate to create for my heart
An antidote for life's poisons
And cure me of my loneliness
Yet in vain does this ink stir
My abstractions to concrete,
My thoughts to words

And with the pain of unfulfilled expectations
My thoughts fool me to dwell on the past
To disavow the present and live unhappily
And I remain, an abandoned man, with a message to preach
But without a voice to tell it

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Why the removal of Hoagland's nomination doesn't impress me

Before I begin I'll admit my views may prove controversial and isn't representative to how most Armenians view this situation, but I'm going to write it here because I feel the urge to say it. All I'm providing is my views and analysis on the situation, feel free to disagree.

It's old news but Bush removed the nomination of Hoagland as the new Ambassador of Armenia. For those who don't know, Democrats in Congress acted with the discretion of Armenian voices (namely but certainly not limited to the ANCA) and blocked the nomination and Hoagland was named a genocide denier.

Well, does it seem like a victory for us? Perhaps on the surface, democrats worked in conjunction with the Armenian community in a move against genocide denial. Several democratic and republican senators grilled Hoagland at his hearing just over one year ago. Does this send a message to the Bush administration that Armenian Genocide Recognition should be taken seriously? Is this a victory for us? I don't think so.

The reason why Hoagland's nomination was removed was because Bush declined to use a recess appointment. A recess appointment is a tool that the President can use where an ambassador gets appointed to a position during a congressional recess. It pretty much bypasses congressional opposition. Why didn't Bush use a recess appointment for Hoagland? Enter Sam Fox and John Bolton. John Bolton was the Permanent US representative to the UN and Sam Fox is the current ambassador to Belgium, both were appointed via recess appointments with Fox's appointment happening recently on April 7, right in the middle of the Hoagland crisis. Looks like Bush has a history of nominating ambassadors that congress doesn't like, looks like Bush has a history of using recess appointments to get these guys through, and it looks like congress finally got fed up with it. So what happened to that recess appointment for Hoagland? Sorry buddy, you're collateral damage, congress is griping at me because of these recess appointments and I don't want to deal with it anymore. Bush needs his guys at the UN and the EU a lot more than he needs them in Armenia (EU headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium). Armenia is expendable to Bush, seeing that he doesn't really need an ambassador in Yerevan he took the easy way out and withdrew. Now, does it really matter to Bush why congress didn't want Hoagland? My guess is no. Does it matter to congressional democrats? Or are they just using this as a tool to score points off of Bush? Does it matter to anybody? Ok ok now I'm being too cynical. This was a huge act of defiance against Genocide Denial by the Armenian community, but is this move what the Armenian community is making it out to be, i.e. is this a success for the Genocide Recognition? Or did it get jungled up together with Washington politics?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for advocacy, and the Armenian community did stand up for something they believe in, but I think there's a tangible difference between what we want this to be and what actually happened. Maybe I'm thinking too much through the DC perspective, but this perspective is the way we are going to get Genocide recognized.

About the merits of urging congress to block Hoagland's nomination, I was against this move from the start. It doesn't make sense to me to have Armenia without an ambassador during a critical time in US Armenian relations highlighted by the MCC deal.

Does it seem prudent to go against the wishes of the Armenian government in its dealings with the US? (yes the Armenian governments stance was in favor of Hoagland being appointed, but you won't find this stated everywhere). The Armenian government generally isn't much prudent either I'll admit, but in this case I think it's a legitimate question to ask.

I welcome debate.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Familiarity with a homeland?

I came back from Armenia about just over three weeks ago. This was my second trip in three years and after spending 6 weeks there I was...well... ready to go home.

I wasn't sad upon leaving my homeland, I wasn't wondering about my return, and I definitely wasn't attached to anything. Why? Because Armenia became familiar to me.

The first time I went I spent 2 months there and when the time came for me to come home I wanted to stay longer and cherish my times there. I grew attached to the entire experience, the immersion into a different world, and the friends I made. It all hit me at once, the cars about to run over you, everybody speaking Armenian, all the stuff you encounter the first time and wake up with a "culture shock." All of these concepts sound cliche to me now whenever I think of Armenia.

This time I was used to crossing the street, the language, the different realm became familiar territory for me. I was therefore not attached when I was leaving, in fact I was ready and eager to go home. The initial "culture shock" dissipated and I remained just another diasporan enjoying his summer in the homeland. Is that, after all, everything that Armenia offers? After the first time, and that's it?

Well, there's a reason why I became familiar to the atmosphere of Armenia, and as I look back there is an inherent beauty to my acclimation. Yes it was familiar and no longer new, but at the same time I realized that I became familiar with my homeland. I suppose that isn't a bad thing, and I was able to show others what I experienced the first time.

Now as I look back it isn't entirely a bad thing to be familiar with one's surroundings, but for now I'm looking for something that... well... isn't too familiar :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another April 24 entry?

Here it is, April 24, a perfect opportunity to write a cliche remembrance entry into my blog which has been in desperate need of a post for more than a month... i'll try to keep this fresh (try is the key word here).

This year I did not hesitate to be a cynical voice among the thousands of Armenians in Los Angeles ready to brandish their flags on their cars and honk in front of the Turkish Consulate or in Little Armenia in Hollywood. No, I'm not participating in marches, protests, or remembrance events (After going to so many last year I went to none this year), I don't have any flags on my hood or waving out of my window... and yes... I went to work today. I suppose this makes me a bad Armenian. But I if I step back just a little bit and reflect on the meaning of this day, it's worth just as much as all the activism that saturates the Armenian Diaspora this time of the year.

What exactly happened on April 24 that makes it the commemorative date? April 24 marks the beginning of the Armenian Genocide as over 200 Armenian intellectuals and leaders were rounded up in Istanbul and eventually executed. Here is a picture of 10 individuals who perished. Among them are giants of Armenian literature and poetry: Taniel Varujean, Krikor Zohrab, Siamanto, Rupen Zartarian, Rupen Sevag, and Erukhan. On this day, 92 years ago, they were all brutally executed at the hands of Turkish officials, and this is the tip of the iceberg. 1.5 million Armenians perished and this number doesn't even take into account how these deaths affected the survivors. Vahan Tekeyan had survivor's guilt since he was fortunate enough not to be in Istanbul on that day as his contemporaries and friends perished. Komitas Vartabed went insane at the sight of the killings and lived the last 20 years of his life in a psychiatric clinic. Hovhaness Shiraz was born in the city of Gyumri which at the time was housed destitute Armenians fleeing massacres (his father later died fighting off Turkish troops). Granted the genocide dominates Armenian identity, almost too much sometimes.... but it's hard not to notice it when you take this information into account.

Now just to take a step back, April 24 seems to have two facets. The more mainstream is activism: protests, marches, events at schools/churches/community centers, etc, in other words, the stuff I'm not so thrilled about participating in this year. I'm not saying it's not important, political activism is a key part of remembrance since there were also political leaders who were executed on this day. It's just not my thing, I've had my full and it just gets redundant.

The second is a much more personal level of remembrance. For me, I see this day just like any other day. I'm not going to take off work or go to a protest and yell and scream in front of the turkish consulate when chances are nobody is inside. What I am going to do, and I do this almost everyday, is take time out of my day to sit and read what our writers that died on this day, 92 years ago, wrote down and try to capture a deeper meaning of April 24. Right now I look at my calendar which depicts a different armenian poet every month. This month it's Siamanto, who died on this day, 92 years ago.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ahhhhh the Elections!!!

Well it seems that Levon's poetry muse has packed up and left town; for which I am thankful to all the holy deities that exist. Since now we can concentrate on some serious issues, like the parliamentary elections in Armenia and the opposition's role in it.

I know I said serious issues, but here I go and talk about the Armenian opposition, oximoronic isn't it? Yes ladies and gentleman our opposition is as serious about itself as Brittney Spears is serious about marriage. Levon justifies their actions by saying that they are "hamar" or stubborn, I disagree. They are not stubborn, they are greedy, self indulged, inept, corrupt, "me first" individuals. None of them deserve to become a president, since none of them really care about the people and their problems (well maybe Raffi does, but who are we kidding here folks that guy has no chance). These guys care so much about gaining power that they forgot to at least present some kind of a running platform. You know if I want to vote for someone I also want to know WHY am I voting for that person. These guys did not give me a single reason to vote for them, none. They have no publicly announced plans for decreasing joblessness in Armenia (the most important issue for Armenia today), they have no such plans for the Karabakh issue, for health care, for emigration, and pretty much any other important issues.
Now this does not mean that they don't have plans at all, they do, personal ones. For example Demirjyan Jr. (I have great respect for his father BTW, God bless his soul) is like a character from a bad B movie; you know son sees his father 's brutal death and promises to avenge his father's death, NO MATTER WHAT. Sarksyan also can very well be from that bad B movie, but this guy is here to avenge his brothers brutal death. These two basically are running for presidency in order to get the real masterminds behind the parliament hostage takeover (to be honset official investigation was more than unsatisfactory), where these two lost their relatives, and Kocharyan very conviniently lost two of his biggest rivals. I love Artashes Geghamyan's plan; he runs for the presidency because he wants to be president. Does not get any simpler than this folks, these guys put their personal needs before the needs of the people, just like the current bunch in the power. So a question arises; Why should the people change the ruling elite if the new comers are not going to bring anything new?

Although to be honest I have to give them credit for one thing, honesty about their ambitions. These guys are not shy about their ambitions, they want to become president, they want it now, and they don't want to share any power with anybody, and they make this crystal clear anytime there is a microphone pointing their way, brilliant.

Folks Armenia needs a benevolent dictator, a guy who walks softly but carries a big stick, a strict teacher type, a guy with an iron fist wrapped in a soft fabric, call it whatever you want, we need somebody who cares about the Armenian people and their future and is ready and willing to put the hard work, that requires to achieve that goal; the current leaders don't fit this profile, neither does the so called opposition.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Typical Armenian Politics

I haven't written about politics in a while, and with Armenia's parliamentary elections coming up in May I felt compelled to discuss it but I didn't come across anything noteworthy until now.

A recent article by Armenialiberty,

It talks about the reasons why the Armenian opposition failed to coaelesce in contesting May's elections. Since the situation is a bit complex, allow me to provide a brief context of the big players:

Raffi Hovannisian-former foreign minister of Armenia. Head of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party. Outspoken member of the opposition.

Stepan Demirchian-son of the Soviet era Armenia leader, Karen Demirchian (also former presidential candidate in 1998 and later speaker of the National Assembly, was assasinated along with Vasken Sargsyan). Stepan is the leader of the People's Party of Armenia.

Artarutyun (Justice) Alliance-The main opposition block. Made up of several parties, including Stepan Demirchian's people's party. Recently disbanded.

Vazgen Manukian-head of National Democratic Union.

Aram Sarkisian-Former Prime Minister. Head of the Republic Party (not RepubliCAN party, these are the guys in power). Brother of Vazgen Sargsyan (former Prime Minister, assasinated).

This is just a portion of all the members of the opposition, as you can see there are so many parties, which makes it obvious for them to join, right? Well, this is when things get complicated.

Last week talks between opposition parties commenced with Aram Sarkisian initiating them. The goal was to form an alliance, and it failed. Manukian's National Democratic Union announced that it will boycott the elections, Stepan Demirchian said he's going at it alone, and poor Raffi Hovannisian was left preaching to deaf ears about how he wished an alliance could be made. Recently an aide to Demirchian said that the main reason why the parties couldn't join forces was that Demirchian wanted to be the chief presidential candidate in next year's election. Similar accusations were made of Raffi Hovannisian, who denied them. So where does this leave us? It seems like Hovannisian was earnest in his efforts, he was ready to cede five spots on the opposition bloc to other parties. The main problem was Demirchian's presidential aspirations. I really hate to say this, and it's soooooo trite now, but the situation warrants it... the opposition was being too Armenian, inad, stubborn...call it whatever you want, too many ppl wanting to be the chief or in this case one guy trying to use a situation to help him become the chief. It's quite humorous, but in the end it's unfortuante. That being said, I just hope that May's elections be fair, and not just because it's the way it should be, but because Armenia has a lot at stake riding on these elections. Armenia's future with MCC aid will be dependent on them having transparent elections and let's not forget the Karabagh talks being on hold until after May. So hopefully there won't be a cloud of fairplay this spring.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Armenian Drama and some more on Pasadena

Last Saturday I went to a play put on by the AGBU Ardavazt Theater Company, it's a chill small amateur group that performs plays a couple of times a year. Their current production is Կորսուած նամակ մը, or "The lost letter."

The play isn't a straightforward comedy, it's a satire, or երգիծանք. It's an adapted screenplay originally written by Ion Caragiale, a Romanian. It's a clever take on politics, corruption, and personal relationships that underlie it all. Quite interesting but since I'm more used to the comedies I didn't enjoy it as much, it was a little too subtle. But now after a week the play's themes have really settled in. The interpretation worked because the themes used can easily apply to Armenians today and in this sense it was a great work of social criticism.

My thesis project is going slowly. I have to compose a 30 page paper by the end of June and so far I have only interviewed two sources, so that's money. I have to get more in the next couple of weeks, hopefully get at least 6-8 substantial ones, quite frustrating. There are so many dimensions that it's hard to focus on which one, but the my main concern is with the church. It's amazing how a community can just get together and build something that sustains themselves, a self preserving mechanism if you will. Yet at the same time there are other topics such as relations with neighbors, internal struggles, and evolution of identity. I think my problem is not so much coming up with material.... I have plenty of that, I just need to substantiate it with sources. My main problem is gathering up all of the different portions of my topic and bringing it together.

Take 70s for example. The Lebanese Civil War hit and an influx of Armenians came to America, where do they go? Well, Armenians attract other Armenians, so California was a big target. Pasadena had a good community going, so a lot decide to move there. But they run into the already existing Armenian American community, who have a different perception of Armenian identity. This ultimately leads to a clash. So this dynamic can be like one section of my paper. It also presents a good take on assimilation.

Then you have the relocation of St. Gregory. This event shows how the Armenians coelesced for a common goal. It also is a testament to the growing number of Armenians in Pasadena.

I look forward to completing this project, as it will help me understand my people. But it also presents a fascinating topic, but difficult to grasp due to its enormity.