Do We Have a Dream?

By Edmond Y. Azadian

When nations face overwhelming, burning issues, their citizens resort to extraordinary measures, if they still possess the instinct of survival. A case in point may be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington and his historic speech at the Lincoln Memorial, on August 28, 1963.

The event was a watershed in the Civil Rights movement in the US and King’s messianic message still reverberates in the halls of power, long after his untimely assassination.

Although he advocated change through non-violence, he did not hesitate to state in his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, “the whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundation of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

His example was followed by other African-American leaders, including Louis Farrakhan, who organized the Million Man March in 1995 in Washington.

Now, the question arises: Do we have a dream? Can we mobilize a million-person march on Washington? In the case of the Armenians, that “million,” of course, can only be a symbolic number.

The compelling message of the march must be the recognition of the Genocide in a non-equivocal context and that the destruction of an entire nation cannot be dealt with simply with a play of words in the political marketplace.

The centennial of the Genocide is around the corner and only an event commensurate with its enormity could serve as an adequate undertaking to mark the occasion.

Armenians cannot expect to stage similar movements in Middle Eastern countries; only Europe and North America can tolerate and understand such a massive political action without repercussions, especially in light of the delicate and frightening situation in that part of the world at the moment. Armenians in Europe, and especially in France, are doing their share and those actions are yielding political dividends. The challenge is for us, the Armenians living in the United States.

Of course, we cannot be naïve to the point where we expect the media to give full coverage to us and that the impact of the march will shake the political world. Much has changed from 1963, when King’s message resonated through the entire media. In recent years, many powerful protests at the nation’s capital have received muted coverage in the media because since the height of the Civil Rights movement, the Rupert Murdochs of the world have forged an alliance with the military-industrial complex to cut down to size any movement which is not considered going along with the day’s favored policies. Therefore, media access has to be bought ahead of the event to assure some political impact.

Any such movement requires motivation, political will and above all, finances. One may ask who will underwrite the cost of such an immense undertaking, when as a community, we have so many needs to build half-empty churches all over the country? The answer is obvious: Forbes magazine just published the names of the 10 richest Armenians, who certainly will not commit even a penny if they do not see a united community mobilized and ready to march in Washington.

In the past, the Armenians in the US were polarized. Divisions were rife. But when the opportunities arose, like in 1946 to appeal to the United Nations, there was community-wide consensus. Today, people are less polarized yet more fragmented. Charismatic leadership drove each segment of the community at the time but today it is almost impossible to single out leaders who would rise to the occasion and move the masses to action. That is the enemy within, the one we should tackle, before we begin criticizing the politicians.

It is tragically symbolic that the Genocide museum project will certainly miss the centennial mark and there is no discussion about it throughout the community. Its dedication by 2015 could have served as a jumping-off-point to a million-person march and movement.

A million-person political march could be coupled with a statement about the survival of the Armenians by organizing a gala affair in New York, with the participation of world-class artists and celebrities who may attract the attention of non-Armenians. There are l efforts regarding the centennial commemoration in the US, but plans have not been announced nor finalized. It seems, however, there is no one overarching entity uniting Armenians across the United States, much less globally.

One laudable action needs to be mentioned, which may serve as a spark of inspiration: world-class pianist Vartan Mamikonian has engaged himself, with a Crusader’s zeal, to organize 100 musical events around the globe, culminated with a concert on April 24, 2015 in Yerevan.

In terms of scholarship, we have made headway and all the courts and political forums will be inundated with full documentation of the Genocide to defy anyone who wants to deny it happened.

The time is already at hand when we have to start.

Do we have a dream for 2015 or is this column merely reminding up that it will remain a dream?