Throughout our history, the life of the Armenian soldier has been one of difficulty and resilience. From Avarayr to Sardarabad to Shushi, our heroes have fought and defended our very existence. They have fought with the ideal that no Armenian should be oppressed and no Armenian land should be occupied.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the first book printed in Armenian. But the impact of the written word stems back much further. Our history, tradition, and independent identity was facilitated through the establishment of the Armenian alphabet over 1600 years ago.
For young Armenians today, our homeland can be seen in many different ways. It is seen by some, as a destination visited on a family vacation, or with a graduating class. Comparable to a coming-of-age Euro trip, these visits despite being limited in scope and depth, can spark an initial connection to a far-away land.To others, Armenia evokes romantic sentiments of a hallowed land, almost too pristine to be real. Captivated by flawless mental imagery, they may be too apprehensive to see it, lest they leave disappointed by reality.
Life is endless renewal. Where there is no renewal there will be spiritual paralysis and a slow death.
The idea of rebirth is a familiar one to the Armenian people because it has represented endurance in the face of oppression, perseverance in the face of struggle, and survival in the face of oblivion.
No matter where we may be in the world, caring about the future and well-being of Armenia is an ancestral obligation that we cannot escape. If we are serious about this obligation, we need to be rooted in reality and view the challenges facing our people with candor. Unfortunately, a sober look at our current conditions is not always the order of the day, even among thoughtful and committed Armenians. Too often, we have a tendency to view our homeland through a sentimental lens; one that is hesitant to confront its uglier hardships.
It is not uncommon to hear certain pundits sound off about how Armenians are too ‘hung up’ on the Genocide. It is said that 1915 has become the sole ‘obsession’ of Armenians, especially in the Diaspora. Whether discussing genocide resolutions or the recent Turkey-Armenia Protocols, Armenians are told they need to “move beyond” the Genocide issue and put more emphasis on things like culture or helping the homeland. Sadly, at times, it is fellow Armenians pontificating these notions.
The Armenia-Turkey Protocols present a critical juncture in our nation’s history. Through the stroke of a pen, the rights, dignity and interests of the Armenian people threaten to be sacrificed on the altar of political and economic expediency. The dangerous implications of the Protocols for our national interests point, more than ever, to the urgent need to change the undemocratic, unjust, and inequitable conditions in our homeland.
Human nature is often described as self-interested, egotistical and insular, where individuals do not have concern for anything outside of the realm which directly affects them. While it may seem logical and prudent for everyone to put their heads down and focus solely on their immediate desires, this is not the way to achieving positive and tangible change on any level. The attitude described above leads to the creation and intensification of dividing lines among people that should otherwise be unified.
It can be said that the struggle for the Armenian Cause which was reinvigorated in the second half of the 20th century was truly one of the most remarkable grassroots political movements to develop internationally.
The struggle to maintain one’s identity and culture outside of his or her homeland is not a new one for Armenians. For centuries, we have survived exile, dominion under foreign powers and life on foreign soil.