Thank you, Mr. President, oh, yes we are.
Each year Armenians wait to see how the leader of the free world will describe the events of April 24, 1915, with hope in our hearts that his pre-election promise will be fulfilled with a declaration that the egregious events that took place in the Ottoman Empire and later Republic of Turkey constituted a genocide.
Our fellow Christian minorities, the Greeks and the Assyrians who suffered the same fate, are waiting too. Again this year, it was too much to hope for, but what does stand out in our president’s statement is his description of the Armenian character: “Armenians are resilient,” he declared.
We’ll take credit for that; we deserve his apt assessment of the Armenian character.
What kind of people are the Turks who ripped open the stomach of an expectant mother while gleefully displaying the unborn fetus on the tip of their sword, bearing gleaming teeth and a lascivious grin? Who can forget the knock on their door when their father and brother were hastily taken away to the edge of the village and killed? Who can forget young Armenian girls trying to escape to the barley fields, chased on horseback by savages bearing down on her determined to rape the gouys (maiden) and or carry her off to forcibly become his bride, bear his children, and accept Islam. Run, scream, try to hide, watch as they nailed the local priest to the church’s front door. Try to run east to the Russian border if you can; travel by nightfall to get to a missionary orphanage, or try to get to Batoum to escape the unspeakable horror.
History cannot be rewritten; the Turks are undeniably guilty. Gradually more and more of their present-day population are becoming aware of their sinful past.
Perhaps “resilient” is just not enough to describe what those that escaped and survived suffered mentally.
It was the Armenian immigrant generation of that genocide who witnessed women and girls throwing themselves off mountain cliffs to their death rather than be captured by Turks or their accomplices, the Kurds.
It was their eyes that saw rivers running red with the blood of their people, rivers that also became jammed with the bodies of Armenians drowned by force or by their own choice.
Yes, Mr. President, we became “resilient,” maintaining our sanity, perhaps “resilient” even to a fault. Do records exist revealing the anguish, the mental state—even madness—foisted on the Armenians because of the Ottoman Turks’ hatred of their Christian minority? How many Armenians suffered the madness that befell Komitas Vartabed, whose statue in downtown Detroit on Jefferson Avenue so perfectly describes his identification with the slaughter and plight of his beloved Armenian people?
The Turks instilled one thing in the Armenian mindset, Mr. President: the blinding force to survive as a nation of people in order to seek JUSTICE.
Exiled, deported, stripped of dignity, a homeland, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and extended family, these “resilient” Armenians who were fortunate to escape a “Turkey for Turks” landed in all parts of the world, toiling to make a life for themselves by working in factories and sweatshops.
Some opened restaurants, barber shops, grocery stores, without any knowledge of the local language. It was sheer determination—not as victims but as human beings now living in a free society.
They made it, and many children of the first generation born in America in the early 1920’s, for instance, became educated as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and industrialists, and became prosperous enough to contribute to the political campaign funds for those running for Congress and, yes, even the prestigious office of the president of the United States.
They were “resilient” enough to build fine Armenian churches, community centers, committed to the perpetuation of Armenian-ness far away from the homeland.
“Resilience” became the mindset for survival above all odds. It became the Armenian determination to fight for justice, recognition, and restitution for the genocide. We are not forgetting the dark years that preceded April 24—the slaughter of Armenians by Sultan Hamid in 1894, whose murder was protested by Krikor Zohrab in the parliament in 1909.
Our architecturally beautiful ancient churches are battered, riddled with bullet holes from Turkish guns, and crumbling to the ground in decay.
Armenians must remain alert, educated, patriotic, and dedicated to the Armenian Cause.
On the positive side, the exile of Armenians from the homeland enabled them to multiply and flourish peacefully like beautiful perennial flowers, to forever remain rooted in God’s world with the ability even after 4,000 years of existence in Armenia and all over the earth to proclaim with pride and “resilience”: Yes, Hye em, I am of Armenian heritage, “they” only made us stronger, Mr. President.