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Diaspora in America

Hrant Dink may not have died in vain. The assassination of the Armenian-Turkish journalist by a seventeen year-old "nationalist" has prompted massive outpourings of grief, not only in Istanbul, where one might expect it, but elsewhere in Turkey as well. The government is all but patronizing a big-deal funeral. Denial of the Armenian genocide isn't the biggest problem that Turkey faces (Kurdist separatism is), but it is the major obstacle to the final step of Turkey's secularist reformation: union with Europe. I wish I could join the crowds for this particularly sad but generally joyous observance.

Clear up one problem and another will appear in its place, as is shown Times coverage, "Armenian Editor's Death Leads to Conciliation," by Susanne Fowler and Sebnem Arsu. 

Turkey calls the loss of life a consequence of a war in which both sides suffered casualties, and has suggested that a group of envoys from each country analyze the history. Armenia has expressed a willingness to participate but insists that the border must first be reopened to trade.

But many Armenians living abroad hold a much harder line and are lobbying the United States and European governments to deny Turkey entrance into the European Union until Ankara recognizes the killings as genocide.

I know that not all of the Armenian "expats" (many the grandchildren of emigré refugees) live in the United States, but a lot of them do, and they are among the hardest of hard liners. They have plenty of company: Irish-Americans who have supported Sinn Féin, Cubans who have plotted against Castro, and American Jews who have "settled" the West Bank - just to name three groups of powerful quasi-diasporans. The basic idea seems to be that you get thrown out of your homeland for one reason or another and come to America, where you prosper. But you do not forget the Old Country, for vengeance is yours!

The sad fact is that we all live locally, whether we want to or not. People living in California gradually cease to be Armenians, not because they abandon traditions but because actual Armenians, the people who live in Armenia, come to have different experiences, and probably don't see "tradition" in quite the same way as their collateral exiles. The very lack of an overall American "sentiment," or national feeling, makes it possible for newcomers to feel at home within a short space of time, but it also encourages them to hold on to and fetishize the more portable aspects of the culture they have left behind. The rest is money for guns. 


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