Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again

 Vartan Matiossian

We are on the brink of the American presidential elections and the subject of the U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide has heated up again. On August 15 and August 17, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) issued letters calling on presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to make their position clear on this and other issues relevant to the Armenian community. As of the time of this writing, no response has been publicized.
"Barack Obama Got Pretty Close"
Under the title "Obama vs Romney: Armenian American Community Pressures Candidates to Recognize 1915 Genocide by Ottoman Turkey," journalist Haykaram Nahapetyan has published an article in PolicyMic following this issue (September 29, 2012).
Writes Nahapetyan: "President Obama, as a senator, qualified the events of 1915 as genocide. As president, he stated, 'he hadn’t changed his views.' 'My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts,' Obama said. However, he did not use the G-word while in the Oval room, but qualified the events of 1915 as 'Medz Yeghern.' The president has skillful advisers: 'Meds Yeghern' is the Armenian equivalent of genocide, the same way Shoah in Hebrew stands for the Jewish Holocaust. Barack Obama got pretty close to doing what in fact already another U.S. president had done about three decades ago."
The reference is to the following line in Ronald Reagan's Proclamation 4838, dated April 22, 1981, "Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it — and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples — the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten." He used the word "genocide" in a proclamation on the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of Holocaust; he never issued a message about 1915 in his eight-year presidency.
Interestingly, Obama has used Մեծ Եղեռն (Medz Yeghern), "the Armenian equivalent of genocide," which it is not the G-word itself, in his four messages on Armenian Remembrance Day from 2009-2012. Nahapetyan notes that, "The community is waiting for clarifications from the President." One may wonder whether anyone waits for clarifications when any American politician or academic uses Shoah, "which stands for the Jewish Holocaust," instead of the H-word.
(Memo to readers: If an Armenian used Medz Yeghern in an Armenian speech, book, or article -- which has happened countless times from 1916-1945, when the word ցեղասպանութիւն (tseghasbanutiun) was coined, and from 1945 to 2012 --, s/he would never be asked to clarify his/her words). 

"'Meds Yeghern' Does Not Have a Judicial Meaning"
"At the end of the day, 'Meds Yeghern' is meaningless for most Americans, and does not have a judicial meaning," says Nahapetyan. 
While it is hard to say whether, at the end of the day, "Shoah" is meaningful for most Americans, it is even harder to state that it has a "judicial meaning" (ha-Shoah means "catastrophe, destruction" in Hebrew). However, we are curious to know where the writer has learned that "Medz Yeghern" does not have a judicial meaning. (Incidentally, he does not give the English translation of the phrase.) If he had cared to open an Armenian-English dictionary, he would have found that the primary meaning of եղեռն (yeghern) is "CRIME," the word եղեռնագործ (yeghernakordz) means "CRIMINAL," and there is even a word (not in those dictionaries, but in Armenian monolingual dictionaries) եղեռնադատ ատեան (yeghernatad adean) which means "CRIMINAL court." The word yeghern/"crime" has, indeed, a judicial meaning: "Medz Yeghern" literally means "Great Crime."

"Armenian Americans Will Not Vote for Obama"
Finally, Nahapetyan writes: "Harut Sassounian, President of the United Armenian Fund and a newspaper publisher from California, a state which hosts the majority of over one million Armenian Americans, stated: 'Pres. Obama has about 30 days to make good on his pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Otherwise, Armenian Americans will not vote for him for a second term.' "
It would be interesting to know Mr. Sassounian's credentials to speak on behalf of all Armenian American voters. It would also be interesting to know whether he has conducted a confidential poll about their voting tendencies in the forthcoming election. It would be interesting too to find out whether his conclusion/warning implies another option, of whose feasibility we are only aware through the following paragraph:
"Another Republican presidential candidate, Gov. Mitt Romney, has decided not to make a statement on Armenian issues, even though he has been asked to do so by two Armenian-American organizations. During his four-year term as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney issued four proclamations on Armenian issues. The first three properly characterized the Armenian Genocide, while the fourth did not. As is the case with Sen. McCain, Gov. Romney refuses to make a statement on Armenian issues at a time when he desperately needs Armenian-American votes. How much more reluctant would he be, if he is elected president!"
The quote comes from the article "Candidates McCain, Romney & Huckabee Don’t Seem Interested in Armenian Voters," written by Harut Sassounian himself and first published in California Courier on February 7, 2008.
Sometimes, words speak by themselves. Most of the time, people are judged by their words.

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