Do I have any right to be upset? I’m a healthy 21-year-old senior in college, living at home with my parents in beautiful La Crescenta, CA. What right do I have to get upset or mad or frustrated at the fact that kids in Gyumri do not know the meaning of our tricolored flag? Who am I to get disappointed when my campers don’t know how many Armenians were slaughtered in the Genocide? My hardships may be minimal compared to these kids, but I cannot deny the fact that I am genuinely and wholeheartedly upset.
I honestly feel like I have entered the twilight zone. What is this place that is so incredibly different from the little Armenian community I was raised in back home? All throughout my adolescence I was nurtured with such national pride and national awareness, all the while believing that when I get older I can come to Mayr Hayasdan and find a cohesive attitude with my people, and finally put all my “Armenianness” to practice. I’ve come to the shocking realization that, even with all its natural beauty, with all its historical magnificence, Armenia is not the glorious treasure our textbooks, poetry and songs lead us to believe.
When I first realized that my kids at camp Gyumri did not know who Talaat Pasha was, did not know when Armenia first proclaimed independence, and did not know the words to our national anthem, I was furious. I kept them in from playtime that day and tried shoving as much of this basic information into their minds as possible. I am not doubting the fact that they have more knowledge, experience and education about their country than I do, but my point is not about who knows more and who knows less. My point is that the lack of familiarity of these simple yet vital historical facts, reflex a lack of national pride. What is the future of this nation if the new generation is indifferent to our flag, our anthem, our history, our politics, our geography and our natural environment? Is the government intentionally keeping these kids uninformed and preoccupied so one day they won’t be a threat to those in power?
Then there is another side of me that thinks, why should these kids care? Would I care about the well-being of my country when my own father is an alcoholic and beats me everyday like 9-year-old Suzanna’s father does?
Today she told me that when he gets really angry, he pulls her off the ground by her hair and slams her against the wall. As for her mother; a few years ago she told Suzanna to sit and wait in front of their neighbors’ house. She never came back. Would I care to learn about the suffering of my ancestors when I have to share one toothbrush with my whole family like Dianna does?
I suppose for me national pride comes easy, because I am not the one experiencing the hardships of this country today. But for kids like Suzanna and Dianna, pride in their homeland and history may become slightly more important when they are given a reason to love Armenia.
Although these kids are the future of our nation, they need their basic security, livelihood, and humanity respected in order for them to be interested and to care; care about our history, our culture and care to want to make the changes our country so desperately needs.
After all it is human nature to cherish the things you love and the things that love you back.