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The Carletonian

Reflections 100 years after the Armenia Genocide

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Last Friday, April 24th, is treated as the anniversary of the genocide committed on 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians in 1915. This year is particularly important because it marks the centennial commemoration of the genocide.

It is a bittersweet day for Armenians around the world such as myself. We not only remember the 1.5 million lost at the hands of the Ottoman government but we appreciate the fact that our unique culture has managed to survive across the world.

We not only struggle for international recognition of the genocide, but are thankful that we now have a nation of our own to call the homeland.

With the centennial mark of the genocide, there has been even a harder push by the international Armenian community for recognition of the genocide. I often hear the question, even by other Diasporan Armenians:

What is the point in still seeking recognition one hundred years later? Why not just move on? In response to this question there is the obvious argument that genocide breeds more genocide.

To understand this argument is as simple as understanding Adolf Hitler’s reasoning for invading Poland:

“I have placed my death-head formations in readiness with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

But in addition to this argument I often find a more personal reason for seeking recognition of the genocide. I grew up in Portland, where an Armenian community is virtually nonexistent. Similarly, I now attend a college with maybe a couple of students with Armenian last names.

The only source of Armenian “culture” came from my house and my summer visits to Los Angeles where Armenian communities, schools, and churches can be found around every corner. Growing up in Portland I often found it very difficult to know my identity. I would tell people I am Armenian but my lifestyle was very much American.

I attended a public high school, socialized with Americans, and spoke significantly better English than Armenian.

This clash between what I was being told at home and what I found was reality drove me crazy and often tempted me to let go of my “Armenianness.”

As I have grown over the years, improved my Armenian, and spent summers in the country of Armenia, I have managed to preserve and indulge in my Armenian identity. It was this very struggle of identity and temptation to let go of my Armenianness that I push for the recognition of the Genocide.

If it hadn’t been for the Genocide that not only eradicated half of a nation, but dispersed the other half across the world, I wouldn’t have had to struggle with assimilation.

As generations pass other Diasporan Armenians will face this same struggle and many will fully assimilate.

The Genocide of 1915 still serves its original purpose of eradicating Armenian culture for Diasporans.

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