I always thought that participating in the Genocide walk on April 24 was enough of a contribution to the Armenian Cause. That was before I joined ANCA-WR and before going to San Diego. I realized the fight for recognition for some people is every single day. I didn’t know that going to San Diego for the Democratic Party Convention would involve protesting for the Armenian Cause.
On February 10 – 12, I attended the Democratic Party Convention held in San Diego. It was a very interesting experience. On Saturday night, there was a meeting called “The Progressive Caucus” and they had invited a man named Cenk Uygur, who runs the Turkish show called The Young Turks. It seems almost laughable that something like this could happen at a Democratic Convention, but it also was very disappointing. My experience from this taught me that politics is probably one of the hardest games to play. It was decided that we Southern California Armenian Democrats (SCAD), ANCA-WR, and California Armenian American Democrats (CAAD) members would hand out flyers to everyone entering the conference to inform them of the man speaking that night. We had to inform people and do it in such a way that was not aggressive or offensive. Many people approached me and said things such as, “They are dead, it doesn’t matter” or, “Cenk is not here for that, it’s irrelevant.” One of my main answers was, “How would you feel if Democrats invited a person who publicly denied the Holocaust?” I made sure I was very composed and did not yell or, in my words, “freak out.” Someone approached me and told me that I was doing a very nice job at explaining about the Genocide.
One of my main problems was the need to shout at those who contradicted me. I can say that my heart was beating very fast and scaring me. I felt like I was breaking to little pieces inside, but then I noticed people were waiting for me to respond, and I realized that my answer, however it ended up coming out of my mouth, could change someone’s mind. With that in mind, I answered very calmly and I was honest with them. That is something people always appreciate. I told people that this hits right at my heart and causes a lot of pain to not only me but also everyone who is aware of Cenk Uygur’s reputation.
After everyone entered the room, we did as well. When the panelists sat down, the speaker mentioned the Armenian Genocide very briefly, saying that “we” believe it happened. This was before Cenk Uygur came into the room. Uygur was brought into the room from a side door and he had a lot of security near him. When he got up to speak, every single Armenian turned their backs to him and stayed that way for his whole speech. I think that this method of protesting was different and unexpected–all these professionally dressed men and women standing with their backs to the stage. The silent protest was very successful. I was so proud to be part of something like that.
Janice Hahn came up to every single person who was standing, shook our hand and said she supported us. Eric C. Bauman stood with us the whole time. There were also many non-Armenians who, when they found out what was going on, stood with us as well. There was a man sitting in front of me and he asked me if the flyer was true. I told him that we, ANCA and SCAD members, would not be here if it was not true. I pulled up the article online from Cenk Uygur’s blog and showed it to him. He stood up right next to me for the whole speech.
I think this was a very different experience from walking in Hollywood every year for April 24. It was an interesting experience, and I met a lot of people who want to be part of a change. Like I said before, I was not expecting to be part of a protest when I was in San Diego, but I realized that it would not be the same if we had not done this. This experience changed my way of thinking mostly because I was able to be calm about something that constantly drives each and every Armenian insane. To overcome that and speak with a clear mind is an achievement.