Four items worthy of some attention have hit the Armenian scene since the start of the new year.
Let’s start with a positive topic. Catholicos Aram’s declaration of 2020 as “Year of Armenians with Special Needs” is a big deal to my mind. Attending to the needs of those who have some disability is not something we’ve been very good at. The only example I know of that consistently applies to this segment of our nation is Piuneeg/Pyunik (Armenian for “phoenix”). It was established in the early 1990s as I recall, largely through the efforts of Sarkis Ghazarian. Today, there is also Homenetmen’s Hrashk, which has only been around for a couple of years so far. Let’s use this year as an impetus to make it a regular “habit” to address this set of needs, both in the Diaspora and homeland.
The next item is troublesome, and not of our own making, but still impacts us. It is the condition of our community in Lebanon. Given its historic and central role in the Diaspora, coupled with its proximity to our homeland (much like Syria), the maintenance of that part of our nation is very important. Despite its much decreased size, the unique structure of the Lebanese political system gives us an out-sized role, which is well worth maintaining. The economy of the country has tanked and inevitably, unavoidably, also taken a huge toll on our compatriots and community structures. The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) has embarked on a fundraising campaign to prop up its flagging fortunes. Give whatever you can. It’s tough given that there is always a call to support development efforts in the Republic of Armenia, but our national condition is one of dispersion requiring unusual efforts.
Then there’s the opera that has started looking more like a soap opera. No doubt you’ve read about how soprano Ruzan Mantashian was invited to perform a duet with an American tenor in Dresden, Germany. The tenor was unable to make it, so Yusif Eyvazov, a tenor from Azerbaijan was asked to perform and accepted. When he learned who would be performing beside him, his hatred of Armenians kicked in (or perhaps official Baku twisted his arm), and he prevailed on the event organizers to un-invite Mantashian. That’s when the furor began. Non-Armenians in the music world condemned the action, along with noted soprano Hasmik Papian. The organizers relented and re-invited Mantashian. Please contact “The Semper Opera Ball” to laud the fact that they had the decency to correct their mistake. The same applies to those who spoke out against this injustice (go to the news items about this). In particular, Papian set a very good example. Many of us who achieve high status in our chosen fields of endeavor are skittish about speaking out on matters of importance to Armenians that crop up during our careers. That stunts our collective ability to get what is rightfully ours because our friends, neighbors and even antagonists are left with the impression that we are too weak and/or intimidated to stand up for our rights. Let’s all follow in Papian’s footsteps.
Finally, there’s the 2020 U.S. Census. It is very important, for reasons already put out by the ANCA, that an accurate count of Armenians living in the country be reflected in the results. Despite the confidence of census experts, I am convinced that we have ALWAYS been under-counted. The counting has already begun in a remote, tiny village in Alaska. We will all be receiving census materials soon. Please encourage everyone you know to indicate they are Armenian. Even if they are one-half or one-quarter or one-eighth or whatever, let them say it proudly (and why not, alongside their non-Armenian heritage). Our leverage will be boosted, and not just politically. We have major achievements to our credit in all spheres of life, yet countless fellow citizens haven’t a clue that we exist making our job that much more difficult when pursuing justice for our cause or just simple awareness of who we are. How many people have you heard asking, “What’s Italian/Greek/French/German/Scottish… ?” You get the idea, right? I’ve heard all kinds of reasons/rationales/excuses for not indicating that we are “Armenian.” None of them hold water. Tell the census you’re Armenian, make sure all the Armenians you know do the same, and if you’re active in one of our communities’ organizations, make sure it, too, urges/prods/goads/pleads/encourages its members to do right by the census.