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.