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.


R said...

Activism is important but so is writing posts like this one. Abrees.

Levon said...

Thank you :)

Raf said...

I liked the way you got my attention, and you didn't make me jump to become defensive. You passed your criticism and reflection in a way that you didn't allow me but to empathize with you.

Varty said...

inward reflection is great, but it's not enough. And i will agree, it's not enough to simply be politically pro-active and lose sight of everything else that is armenian about us.

But this one day, isn't for us. it's not to prove how armenian we are, it's to educate those who don't know. there were 2 events in all of pennsylvania that i knew of - one was a hokehankist with a terrible speaker and one was the candlelight vigil that the ASA at Penn put on to raise awareness amongst non-armenians. It's the "wow, i didn't know all that before" that i think is the most important thing. Which reminds me, in response to your "all the activism that saturates the Armenian Diaspora this time of the year" - i completely disagree with your use of the words saturate. In LA, sure maybe. But it's not the case everywhere else. And even in LA, i got a message from a non-armenian friend at CSUN who told me that the CSUN ASA's actions on April 24th on campus inspired him to research and educate himself on the issues of the Armenian Genocide.

And so i guess, my criticism is against those that forget the point of April 24th is to inform others not Armenians. And you personally I can't criticize completely, because i know you spent so much of your time and energy on all things armenian and dealing with the genocide issue all year long - but i'm afraid, not everyone is like you. They tend to swing one way or the other, and i'd rather them swing towards the activism end at the moment.

Levon said...

thanks raf ;)

and varty you kind of miss my point

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