The United States House of Representatives passed H.Res. 296, the Armenian Genocide resolution! Such was the breaking news coming from our nation’s capital on October 29, 2019. And this was the environment into which I was happily thrust on my first day as editor of the Armenian Weekly in the offices of this venerable newspaper in the Hairenik building in Watertown. It had been many years (okay, decades) since I was tapping away on a typewriter, yes a typewriter, in a small town paper’s newsroom. The air was abuzz, and the excitement of the moment was palpable that first day. But it was not the sound of typewriters clacking and phones ringing that made it so. These days, we have cell phones that ding and computers that quietly send information in seconds wherever we want it to go. It’s an entirely different level of anticipation knowing that news will reach its intended audience almost immediately as opposed to the next day or the next week or even the following month. Oh, I know I’m dating myself, but this was my experience on my first day as editor of a paper that holds so much meaning, not only for my family but for our communities. I was honored to sit beside our assistant editor Leeza Arakelian as she eagerly tweeted developments as they were happening, completely in awe of her focus and determination to disseminate the information in its immediacy. Watching every moment of the proceedings that day while assisting in finalizing the print edition was exhilarating. I was exactly where I wanted and needed to be.
Fast forward one year…one unprecedented, unimaginable year. Now, I sit working away with the same purpose and determination as that first day, but in a completely different environment. These days we work from home as the pandemic continues to ravage our nation and our communities. The energy of working side by side in our beloved Hairenik building now requires a different kind of communication to maintain from a distance. And these days, instead of covering our country’s recognition of the atrocities committed against our people beginning in 1915, we report on the news of a war brought against our homeland by the very same perpetrators of the Genocide, with the very same intent of eliminating us from our lands. Typing these words makes me physically ill. Following the news from Armenia and Artsakh just as Armenians around the world are doing is heartbreaking, infuriating, sad, frustrating and, in the case of our unified support of the homeland, awe-inspiring.
When we began our coverage of the war, it was the day after h-pem’s “Here’s to You, Armenia” online concert. I wrote about the movement of emotion from joy to pride and determination I experienced as news broke of the attacks on Artsakh by Azerbaijan. Do I still feel pride and determination? Oh yes. I continue to feel proud of the Armenian community around the world for coming together during this war to support the innocent people and republics of Artsakh and Armenia in our fight for survival.
Along with those emotions, however, is an intense anger – anger that my people are once again facing an existential threat – anger that a war has been brought to our doorstep during a worldwide pandemic, a battle already underway – anger that my country, the United States, was and continues to stand by and silently witness these crimes against humanity and war crimes in action. Add to that the outrage that our tax dollars are being used to assist the very countries attacking my people: Azerbaijan and Turkey. Oh sure, there have been statements, but at this point, words are meaningless. Concrete actions must be taken.
A year ago, the US Congress took specific actions to ensure ongoing recognition and remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, including rejecting Genocide denial and supporting education about the Genocide. It is time for our government to take concrete actions to stop the attacks, stop another attempted genocide, stop the march of Erdogan toward his neo-Ottoman expansionist goals with Aliyev as his partner-in-crime. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) outlines exactly what those actions must include: recognizing the Republic of Artsakh, banning arms sales and halting military aid to Turkey and Azerbaijan, investigating evidence of Azerbaijani war crimes, among others. So many of us have taken action through the ANCA, and we need to continue to follow their alerts and guidance. The only route to allay our fears and anger is through the actions we take toward an end to the war and a peaceful and just resolution for our people and homeland.
As I astonishingly realized that a year had passed since I began this journey with the Weekly and a month had passed since the war against our homeland began, once again I was listening to beautiful music through the “Artists for Artsakh: A Concert for Peace.” This time, however, I was emotional more from anger than sadness as I tried, sometimes with success, to find joy in the music of our amazing Armenian artists. Once again, our team was working on completing the print edition of the paper. But this time our focus was on the news of continuing inaction by the US government instead of last year’s action against genocide denial.
“I wonder – when will our people be able to stop fighting and live in peace?” Recently I posed this question to my dear friend, Eric Nazarian, in an email related to his eloquent commentary. His response remains my fervent hope: “We are in the dark and like St. Gregory need to hope against hope and light any and all candles we can. Our resilient, defiant people by fate or by geography have been constantly outnumbered. We will survive this too but need each other’s love more than ever. We are in this together. We are one family. Period. We will be victorious. We will not let the storm drain us. We will become the storm. There is no other way.”