How can you lay carnations at an eternal flame to the memory of your distant dead, knowing you have invoked terror on the very descendents of those you mourn?
It is a question to be pondered this April 24.
Followed by cameras and flanked by escorts appropriately somber for the occasion, the Men of Power in Armenia will make a solemn statement at the Genocide Monument. The President and his ministers will go by entourage under live national media coverage like every year.
And at a time no doubt carefully planned to not be upstaged, the President’s opponents will make the same walk, with faces no less sincere.
The act of honoring the dead will be legitimately made by everyone involved, yet it should also cause those who have pitted Armenian against Armenian in the past month to reflect on their duty not to betray their hard-won inheritance of a homeland.
Each party will walk with pride. But dignity should be reserved for those who earn it and these have not. If either delegation has room for introspection, surely even they will see the sorry irony in their gestures.
This annual Genocide Recognition Day falls on a republic ill at ease and those men are to blame.
The President and his ministers deserve scorn for, by their lack of intervention, endorsing clan law.
Over the past three weeks nearly in the shadow of that Tsitsernakaberd spire citizens have been treated like enemies of the State, often for nothing more than shouting their discontent. And often, too, for nothing.
When Mr. Kocharyan and Mr. Sargsyan and various ancillaries pay their respect to the dead tomorrow, will a thought of their blatant and brutal disrespect for the living dare cross their minds?
I’d really like to hear either of The Powerful explain how this republic is served, when police – with the Minister of Defense as their cheerleader – enter by force into a political party headquarters to drag out and beat 13 women huddled inside in the dark.
No doubt Ani Kirakosyan has ancestors whose memories she should honor tomorrow with a walk up Tsitsernakaberd’s long hill. But walking is a challenge for a 22-year old with insides bruised from a beating and a psyche damage by threat of gang rape.
None of the Men of Power laid a hand on the young woman. But small men with authority afforded by a negligent regime were free to behave in a manner that turned Ani’s and others’ recent days into horror.
Do not think that this condemnation of the government is a defense of the opposition. Its leaders, too, stand to lesser fault for encouraging insurrection among loyalists who follow their heroes’ meaningless chants. And while the noise of protest is the sick thud of batons falling on opposition believers, the sound is the echo of their leaders’ empty rhetoric.
And whether opposition leaders respect the spirit of tomorrow may be known by the day’s end.
Over the past days when those leaders have called rallies, the government has shut down roads leading into Yerevan, denying residents of the regions a chance to protest. It is simply inconceivable that those roads would be closed on Genocide Recognition Day.
Will the opposition exploit the opportunity by staging a political rally on the republic’s most solemn day of its sad heritage? Tomorrow will tell . . . And it will tell much.
Yerevan is jumpy, especially after Thursday’s unexplained attack on a man previously hailed as a patriot. It is nervous over whether recent skirmishes and isolated incidents of violence will escalate into chaos, lead to revolution, or mercifully and quietly dissolve into the common situation of dispute by propaganda.
Across the world tomorrow Armenians will share a bond redeemed at an awful price. From London to Los Angeles, from Paris to Buenos Aires, from Ottawa to Tbilisi and beyond, one cause will unite Diaspora. Here, as many as in the rest of the world total will walk to Tsitsernakaberd’s eternal flame. Armenia will be united with Armenians for as long as it takes to drop a flower, then the walk down the hill will be to a capital divided.
No, not divided. Merely cracked at the top.
For in truth, after the headlines and the bruises fade, most of Armenia is untouched by the violence incited by the opposition and willfully employed by the government. But none is beyond the reach of the collective mood.
It is a pity the mood comes on this day.
History is Armenia’s undertaker. These who will make that walk tomorrow for all the right reasons do not need to be reminded. And if the ugly irony of their leadership is transparent to an outsider, surely it is more so known by these children of survivors.