In March of last year, I found myself in Armenia, walking to the AYF central office in Yerevan. There was a light snow coming down, the streets were filled with mud, and potholes were everywhere. As I walked down those streets, I could not help but compare my experience in Hayastan to the life I had in the States. I thought, “Man, I have it nice back home. A nice house, new car, and . . . hot water.” Being in Armenia, I realized just how much we take things for granted in the States, things which are actually luxuries in Armenia.
For instance, that morning I had waited for forty-five minutes in order for the water heater to turn on so I could take a hot shower. After the wait my choice for water was simply hot or cold, there was no in-between. A few more comparisons of this sort crossed my mind as I got closer to the office.
Finally, I walked in to find a young man sitting there reading a book. He asked me whom I was there to see and showed me the way to his office. As I walked into the building my friend greeted me and we immediately started talking about the upcoming ARF rallies that were to take place later on that day. We waited for a few minutes before our fellow youth steadily began showing up at the office. We all quickly mobilized and headed off to a political gathering that was taking place in one of the regions of Yerevan.
It was great seeing all of these young people climbing into the vans with their Armenian and ARF flags ready to go. It was especially impressive because it was not taking place on a Saturday or Sunday—it was Monday afternoon.
When we got to the rally, everyone went off to do his or her job. Some people set up the stage, others waived the flags, and others listened while the ARF candidates spoke. As I stood there I could not help but feel a sense of humbleness. My fellow Armenians humbled me, as they were doing what some of us do back in the States, but in their own homeland with much fewer resources to work with.
At the end, when the speeches ended and some folk dancers took to the stage, I remember looking around at the crowd, thinking how our people are a proud people, yet their state was not what it should be. The streets were filled with mud, everyone was dressed in gray and black, and the building weighed down upon the square. But, just then, I saw something that gave me hope. Behind the dancers on stage, there was the statue of Soghomon Tehlerian and there with it stood the spirit I am confident will lead to a brighter future.
On the drive back, all I could think of were the excuses. The excuses that we all have, the excuses that we all make about having work, having school, concentrating on our futures. The millions of excuses that we have given and, at times, heard; if not to someone else, then to ourselves. The end realization was that we in the US living in an abundance of “privilege.” Every one of us has a home, which, even if it may not be a mansion, still has running hot water every morning. Every one of us has a car and not once have any of us had to walk through a muddy street in order to get to school.
At the same time, every one of us has a burden: a “burden of privilege.” This is a burden that a person trying to survive does not have. We are privileged enough to have the financial means to attend universities and, as such, a special burden to use our skills to work for the survival and future of the Armenian people. We have the privilege of being citizens of a country where we are not persecuted for calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and it is our burden to work towards that recognition.
I can go on listing a million other privileges that I have discovered to have for myself, and I am sure you can find many more that you have. But recognizing your luxuries and privileges is not what is important. The real question is, what are you willing to do with the burden that comes with your privilege?