Commentary: A Million Person March on Washington


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Judge Lisa Asadoorian is one of many prominent young judges in Michigan. Although she is not actively involved in any particular Armenian organization, her heart is in the right place. She cares about her own people, both in the diaspora and Armenia.
Last Sunday, when she was attending a panel discussion on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, she came up with the idea of 1 million people (both Armenian and non-Armenian) marching on Washington and demanding Genocide recognition. She believes that neither the government nor the media can remain indifferent. There will be some positive reactions and certainly media coverage to mark the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
Any mention of a million-person march on Washington brings back the memory of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who broadcast to the world that he had “a dream,” a dream for African-Americans and a dream for America.
Any person who entertains such an all-encompassing dream must be ready to sacrifice his or her life no matter how peaceful the dream may be. Socrates had a dream, Christ had a dream, leaders of the French and Bolshevik revolutions had dreams and they all paid for their dreams with their lives. Dr. King was cognizant of the perils of entertaining such a monumental dream, and he was ready to pay the ultimate price, which unfortunately for all humankind, he did. He sacrificed his life, but his dream continued marching and gradually transforming the country into a more tolerant society, with a stronger sense of social justice.
Judge Asadoorian may be a naïve person, unaware of the potentials of our community, or she may be a visionary. That remains to be seen in the years to come when the entire community gears up to make an impact on the consciences of the politicians.
We are being warned that the Turks are preparing their pre-emptive strike, even before the Armenians make the first. They have the resources and friends in higher positions to achieve their goals.
Armenians are slumbering and no major idea or project seems to be on the drawing boards to mark the centennial. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to bounce this million-person idea with our public, and find out how receptive the public is to the idea. If nothing else, such a massive show of force will certainly help generate new ideas and prospects for ourselves.
Some caveats are warranted here. In the first place we do not have a million bodies to lead them on a march to Washington.
Second, it is doubtful whether a considerable number of non-Armenians could be interested enough to march in Washington. We claim to represent a force of one million Armenians in the US. Some of them aren’t even aware that they are being counted in that million. Others may be cruising the oceans leisurely, the Genocide being the last things on their minds. Still others are incarcerated in California jails for petty thefts and a large number may be chasing the American Dream rather than Martin Luther King’s dream. Our computation fails here. It fails unfortunately because we cannot count how many Armenians are left with a dream and how many can take the trouble and expense to show up in Washington.
However, if a million march catches the imagination of all or most of the Armenian organizations, they can pool together enough resources and people to deliver an impressive march, all dressed in black and with the slogan “Genocide recognition now.”
In that case, some politicians may be ready to pay the Armenians lip service, their next election on their minds. President Harry Truman had a scathing definition for politicians; he said in his youth he aspired to become either a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician, and concluded that there isn’t too much difference between the two.
As to the role of the media, we are not very certain if they would be willing to give full coverage, because we have seen in the past thousands of people rallying in Washington in support of a legitimate cause, but cynically, little or no coverage has been given, because the media moguls did not have any interest in the cause.
A gay-rights parade or a politicized shooting of a young man may enjoy better media coverage, than, let us say, the fate of 4,500 members of the armed forces killed in Iraq or the 50,000 maimed soldiers. Media networks have their own priorities, which are not based on justice only, but on what sells products.
Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is crumbling under its own weight in the United Kingdom, because it has been trampling upon its advocated set of values, principles and codes of conduct.
We are not privy yet to plans for a mass action to mark the Genocide centennial. A million-strong march may be an option, no matter what. Even if it only proves to ourselves that we do have the political will and we can mobilize masses for a cause.
A million-person march can be achieved through community-wide cooperation, unity of purpose and action. Before marching to Washington we have to explore and discover whether we possess the necessary tools for the project.
First we have to define for ourselves why Genocide recognition is relevant after 97 years and also, what to anticipate after its centennial is marked.
If it were a moral or emotional issue it would have been forgotten a long time ago. There are certain underlying principles that should not go away even after one century from the event. The recognition of the  Genocide is still relevant for the following reasons: To bring closure to the loss and the memory of 1.5 million innocent victims; to restore justice between the two nations — a justice that the international community dispenses selectively to achieve some self-serving goals and to set the stage for future political settlement between the two nations.
The fact that Turkey is still so irritable and overreacts every time a country intends or attempts to recognize the Armenian Genocide, Armenia and its political claims, means that they constitute an existential threat for Turkey, which was the original cause of the Genocide. Even Turkey has to gradually face the issue of recognizing the Genocide. As long as the recognition issue remains alive, every civilized political act becomes relevant and necessary.
We need a dream to march in Washington. Perhaps a fragment of that dream concludes the million-strong march at the gates of the Armenian Genocide Museum on its dedication day.
The Chinese have a saying: A 10,000-mile march begins with the first step.
Are we ready to take that first step?

1 Comment

  1. Beth Broussalian says:

    I have been thinking about the centennial as well. I live in San Diego, and would like to think that I am somewhat of an insider when it comes to community activities. I have also heard nothing about the centennial. I think there’s a loose effort to bring people together for planning purposes in L.A. I like the idea of a million person march, but maybe we need to look at the idea on a broader scale, because of the inherent limitations of the American Armenian community to mobilize. How about a synchronized 1.5 million person march in Armenian Diaspora cities around the world? We could time it so that it began at 9pm in Yerevan on April 24th and take place simultaneously around the world in all cities where Armenians wish to participate (be it a group of 100 or 100,000). I also would like to launch a “We Remember 1915 -2015″ campaign with t-shirts and signs that identify the cities, towns and villages that our grandparents and great-grandparents came from. I think that today’s Turks would be astonished by seeing how connected Armenians remain to their ancestral homeland. Thank you for your thoughtful piece, I’m ready to take the first step…maybe I already have.

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