got to have somebody to look down on
Who they can feel better than at anytime they please
Someone doing something dirty decent folks can frown
If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself
My hero Kris Kristofferson of Brownsville, Texas
wrote those lines as a commentary to the reaction
of rednecks to hippies in the turbulent times
of the 1960s America.
Baku isn't Brownsville (though plenty of Texas
oil barons might make it so) nor does Yerevan
bear much resemblance to anything from the time
of Kris' inspiration. But his song has found its
way into my thoughts as I watch my friends and
colleagues react to the presidential elections
Behind every breathless "Did you hear what's
happening in Baku?", is an unstated but understood
conclusion that Armenia is finally off the hook
as the hoodlums of the Caucasus.
Tell me honestly: If you are of Armenian blood,
aren't you just a little pleased that things turned
ugly in Baku yesterday?
Reports vary, but it is confirmed that at least
two people were killed in election-related rioting
(including a child who apparently was crushed
in the melee) as police and protestors equally
turned mad-dog in post-election blood-letting.
Ever since March, when Robert Kocharyan versus
Stepan Demirchyan filled Yerevan's streets with
anger, threats, minor violence and a damning spotlight
of international scorn, Armenians have awaited
last Wednesday's Azeri election with hope of somebody
making them look better. The Azeris accommodated
such wishes with a demonstration that made the
Armenians look like dilettante rebel rousers.
As with the elections here, hundreds of international
observers, including an Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe team led by Peter Eicher
(Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights) opined on an unpretty picture.
"This election has been a missed opportunity
for a genuinely democratic election process. We
were particularly troubled by the level of intimidation
and unequal conditions for candidates during the
campaign," Eicher said yesterday.
But it didn't take a team of observers, only
access to a television, a newspaper or a website
to see what really made the experts on election
Photos of bloodied faces and of police running
from assailants and video of bodies broken by
beating told a story that in Yerevan media might
have been headlined: "At Least We Didn't
OSCE isn't making a big deal of it, but at least
two reports said that Eicher himself was on the
receiving end of police batons during the melee.
An OSCE spokesperson in Baku was angered by ArmeniaNow's
effort to confirm those reports. That's usually
pretty good evidence that the information is accurate.
Of course last March there was civilian unrest
in Yerevan and mistreatment by police. But after
mostly some scrapes and bruises the reaction here
was a riot of rhetoric. Certainly, there were
no photos of police running from angry mobs.
(My personal favorite act of insurrection was
when a woman approached armored riot police outside
President Kocharyan's residence and threw a brassiere
at them, shouting "If you're going to let
him tell you what to do, you ought to be wearing
During those days in March, a repatriate businesswoman
thought I was being too critical of the election
process here. She had point: I mean, what's a
little ballot box stuffing, illegal mass arrests,
and campaign headquarters torching among ourselves,
right? She said I should just wait and see what
would happen in Baku if I wanted to understand
Well, she was right. And if Armenia had a Ministry
of Public Relations, today would be the day for
it to send flowers to Baku, thanking them for
So the onus for bad behavior has been lifted,
replaced by subtle smugness. As if being the world's
tallest midget makes one a giant.