And what needs to be done
On May 12, I wrote an article titled “Obama Alienates Armenian Americans,” in which I presented the reaction of Armenian leaders and commentators to what the community views as the continuous stream of blows from the Obama Administration in recent weeks. In the two days following the posting of the article on the Armenian Weekly website, many readers posted their views on Obama’s “betrayals” and their suggestions about the road ahead.
The comments compelled me to write a second article, this time quoting the readers, some of whom were very insightful. After all, who are the leaders and commentators to listen to before formulating their policies and writing their commentaries if not the community itself?
At the end of the article, I suggest a way for the Obama Administration to begin remedying the situation.
‘I told you so’
Several readers said they had never trusted Obama in the first place and were surprised by the full support Obama had received from the Armenian community during his presidential campaign.
“Is anyone really surprised?” asked one reader. “I am continually surprised that people believed him. Obama wants everyone to think he’s different. But he isn’t. He’s just another politician who will say anything he has to get elected.”
Another reader agreed. “I was amazed how the Armenian community was supporting Obama and all my friends thought I was crazy every time I told them that Obama will change his views shortly after becoming president… Well, I am sad to say it happened…”
“I’m not one bit surprised that Obama has turned on the Armenians,” said a third reader. “I’m sorry to all of you fellow Armenians who actually voted for him, believing his empty promises of standing behind Armenians, among all of his other promises. The man is a good ‘campaigner’ and that’s it.”
After criticizing those who voted for Obama as well as the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) for endorsing him, one person said, “I just feel sorry for all of you that thought Barack Obama was a ‘friend’ to Armenians. I knew this was coming, and judging from some of the previous posts here, I’m not the only Armenian with some sense!”
“I guess there were a lot of Armenians who drank the Obama Kool-Aid. You have been scammed. He got what he wanted: votes,” said yet another reader.
Most Armenian Americans supported Obama during his campaign and are now deeply disappointed.
“I am embarrassed to say that I was one of Obama’s first supporters. I purchased books and t-shirts to support Obama the candidate… I no longer like Obama the president,” read one comment.
“President Obama, you systematically crushed our hopes,” read another. “I feel duped, foolish, broken-hearted, and disgusted, all at the same time. I think you missed your ‘calling’: you should have been an actor…”
“I have never been disappointed in anything more than President Obama’s not using the ‘g-word’ on April 24th,” wrote one reader. “On five occasions he pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide but failed as a president on recognizing the truth.”
Yet another reader summarized the situation as follows: “President Obama, you lost the love and trust of 1.5 million American Armenians and 6 million Armenians worldwide.”
Commenting on those who said they were disappointed by Obama, one person wrote, “I am glad you saw the light on Obama. There may be hope for you yet.”
‘Barking up the wrong tree’
A sentiment that is widely felt in the Armenian American community (and the Armenian Diaspora in general) is that the real actor to blame is the Armenian government, which signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey on the eve of April 24, the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day.
“I blame all this entirely on the Armenian president Serge Sarkisian,” wrote one reader on the website. “It is entirely his fault that Obama is breaking all his promises. He signed that so-called ‘road map’ agreement two days before April 24. He is a spineless man who has caved in to foreign pressure. He is not acting on the interests of the Armenian people and thus, he is dangerous to have as our president.”
The reader added, “By jeopardizing our national security, he and our foreign affairs minister have committed treason against the Armenian state. What’s worse, he is going to stay as our president for at least another three years.”
“We American Armenians need to stop blaming Obama’s administration,” said another, “and shift our attention to Armenia and its government. To gain credibility, respect, and monetary help, change Armenia’s mafia government.”
‘Return the paraphernalia’
The suggestion Armenian Weekly readers made ranged from the sublime to the ridiculously extreme. Most of them seemed to agree, however, that there is a need to get even more active, and make the Obama Administration feel the heat.
One person said, “It’s time to send all Democrats a message. Do not contribute to any Congressional races; get the word out about the other ways in which the president is systematically breaking his promises…”
Another asked his fellow Armenians to “wake up and change the way we do things,” calling for “a demonstration against the president and the State Department.”
A powerful call to action came from a reader who wrote, “There is no question that we’ve been ditched by the Obama Administration which is following State Department policy. I’ve just finished two letters—one to the president and one to Speaker Pelosi on these issues. Exactly right as stated in the article—the genocide resolution must now be back on the table and Congress must not let parity between Azerbaijan and Armenia be ignored. Letters, phone calls—everything—we’ve got to get back to work.”
A clearly disappointed Obama supporter had another idea: “I suggest we pick a day where all Armenians that supported him send back their Obama paraphernalia, together with it a note stating, ‘I hope the Armenian issue doesn’t mark the beginning of a huge back-slide of compromised campaign promises.’”
Making sense of it all
The Obama Administration’s genocide denial, its failure to appoint any Armenian Americans to a decent position in the administration, and its proposal to break the military aid parity between Azerbaijan and Armenia and decrease foreign aid to Armenia, not only alienated most Armenian Americans but also placed the major Armenian American organizations—all of which had supported Obama—in a very difficult situation. After all, an entire community was mobilized to support what was touted as the most “Armenian-friendly administration” ever. And it was very difficult to challenge that label, with people like Joe Biden, Samantha Power—and Barack Obama himself—on the team.
With its actions, however, it seems that the administration is trying to become the administration that is the most unfriendly to Armenians.
Adding insult to injury, there has been no reaching out from the administration to the Armenian American community in any shape or form. Armenian Americans feel insulted and betrayed, and—regardless of what the president thinks about policy issues—they deserve some respect.
The administration has to reach out to the Armenian American community. That is the only smart way ahead.