Commentary: Armenian Dream in America?


By Nubar Dorian

The effort for the survival of our community started with the lending of the first Armenians to these shores. This sacred task is not abandoned and some of us feel that we have made great progress and continue to make strides. It is undeniably true that through intelligence, determination and passion, we overcame hunger, poverty, hopelessness and became proud and happy citizens of our beloved America. Presently we number over 1 million with our homes, churches, comforts, organizations, political parties, press and many-faceted activities.

Even a cursory review, however, should make us feel that all is not well and promising for the future well being of our community or it’s even questionable whether it will exist decades from now. Obviously some will disagree with this assessment and continue painting with rosy hues our present and future, but they will be simply sacrificing reason to illusion, emotion or wishful thinking. There is regretfully no serious public engagement with many problems, issues and challenges. All this leads to our no longer choosing between good and better, but rather, bad and worse. Here for instance are some glaring problems.

Comfort in Numbers
The number of Armenians in America has grown.We now claim to have a community with more than 1 million souls.We fail to recognize however that all this is not based on our actions but in the expense of reducing the number of Homeland Armenians who joined us to find security, jobs and comfort. In addition, many Armenians escaped the turmoil in the Middle East and joined our community. Lebanon, for instance, once known as “The Second Armenia” with close to 200,000 Armenians, now has a scant 40,000. It is sad to realize that there are fewer Armenians in the homeland than when Armenia declared Independence some 20 years ago. Once and for all we have to accept the fact the source for other Armenians to come to America is completely dried up, empty, ended, finished and dead.

Armenian Dropouts
The number of Armenian-Americans who are interested in Armenian history, language, culture and art has shrunk drastically. Most of us live in a family not surrounded by Armenian books, newspapers, photographs of Echmiadzin, Ararat or mementos of the Homeland. There are a huge number of our children who do not even know where Armenia is on the map and view, almost with scorn, all things Armenian. They declare themselves American! We must admit that a majority of us have gone soft on everything that is Armenian and certainly time is not a friend of ours.

Armenian Disunity
Ever since we became an organized ethnic community in America, we brought with us division, different political views and convictions. We started becoming a community in the liberal sense, but in a moral sense we ceased to exist as a united, strong community. How can we hope to have a future in America without uniting our talents, toils and travails? With what agility of conscience and glibness of tongue can we explain the sordid division of our faith, church and worship? This situation has plagued us for the past 50 years. Shamefully, we seem to feel comfortable with this sordid division and have stopped even talking about it.

Leadership and Wealth
We must always admire and respect those among us who have succeeded in amassing wealth, established endowment funds and given generously to good causes without expecting adulation, plaudits and praise. There are others who imagine that by using their generosity and wealth the community owes them a huge debt of gratitude, praise, medals and leadership positions. Some give their gifts with conditions whether the community is in need of what they plan to initiate or need. Unfortunately, there are so many others who have no involvement in Armenian community and their philanthropy is directed elsewhere. This situation hurts, not helps, the community as no real planning or need is involved.

Volunteering
We constantly hear from so many Armenians a helpless query “Why doesn’t somebody do something about things?” These nice people do not bother to explain who this “somebody” might be. Do they have Holy Ghost in mind? What happened to the good old question, “What can I do?” We rely on paid help or “others” to do what we are qualified but not willing to do. There are so many uninvolved among us who continued to give their talents, time and treasure for the good of the community. We are failing miserably in creating the atmosphere to make the uninvolved join us. Our future depends upon our collective efforts to make serving the community a badge of honor. We witness so many good volunteers who have come to the end of their service due to old age, sickness or death and their void remains tragic and sad for the community.

Special Donations
All of us, at one time or another, have had special occasions to celebrate. The long list includes engagements, marriages, baptisms, birthdays, graduations and anniversaries, which we celebrate with family and friends, some in our own homes and others with parties, banquets, in hotels and halls. All these are extremely happy occasions to eat, to drink, to dance, to celebrate and splurge and spend a lot of money for gifts, souvenirs and whatnot. Why is it that we forget to donate on these occasions to causes dear and precious to us? We seek and expect donations in lieu of flowers when a family member dies. Isn’t is just as gratifying to feel good and noble by making special donations to causes the community champions? Why not consider donating on these occasions to the Diocese, the church, AGBU and the Mirror-Spectator, which you are reading presently. These organizations will be grateful to you and the community will be part of your celebration.

I agree it is easy to be critical and produce a more complete list of problems the community has. But when have you heard anyone say “Let us get ready for the best years of our community yet to come?!” When will our leaders sit together to create a long-range plan, a long range of dreams for our community. We have, all of us, effortlessly, quickly, passionately, have become familiar with the “American Dream.” This is very common to all of us.We want prestige, money, comfort and security and continue to become good Americans. It is so unfortunate that we have, unlike our forebears, forgotten that there is also an “Armenian Dream” that sometimes, some people, somewhere dream about and try to make it come true before it is too late.

One of the best things we could do is to revive the Armenian Dream. Talk about it, write about it, discuss about it, debate about it and celebrate it. There is unquestionably a place in our minds and hearts to have, along with the American Dream, an Armenian Dream as well. Not doing this will be our collective, unforgivable, bitter and cursed shame. It is time to just accept our past sins of omission and commission and try to win redemption by reviving this dream and ensure the community’s existence for decades yet to come.

(Nubar Dorian is a resident of Cliffside Park, NJ. He is active in the community, including as a Diocesan Delegate.)