By: Zara Hovasapyan
I thought passing Physics 1A at UCLA was a challenge until I went to the Navasartian Games to register Armenian-Americans to vote. Ten weeks of forces, energies, and kinetic motion does not even come close to the magnitude of the ordeal of asking people to register to vote. The apathy is tremendous. Most frequently, the response I received was, “I don’t believe in voting.” Despite attempting to convince them of how important it is for the Armenian voice to be heard in the American political machine, I faced countless Armenians who were adamantly against voting. Scratch that – to say they were adamantly against voting is an understatement.
To begin, the most disappointing moment of my time at Navasartians happened on the third day about an hour after I began asking people to register to vote. I was talking to an 18 year old guy about registering and, though he was apprehensive at first, after about 10 minutes of telling him about Greg Krikorian, the accomplishments of the ANCA, and how the Armenian community needs to be more vocal, I felt that he was about to take my pen and fill out the registration form. Right at that moment, I suddenly heard a voice “Vahe, if you don’t want to do that, you don’t have to.” I turned around to see an adult; I assumed it was his father. “It is very important and helpful for the Armenian community that all young adults register to vote and voice their concerns,” I said to the man. He gave me the dirtiest look I had seen in a while and told me to come back later after his son pondered the situation. I turned around to Vahe, one more time, and asked him to register to which he gave no reply. To see an adult discourage his son to register to vote, as if it was a crime to beware of, was mind-boggling. I wish that this attitude applied to smoking and drinking instead of civic duty.
I sat down for a few minutes to contemplate my conversation with Vahe and his father. Why was Vahe being so submissive, I wondered. For obvious reasons, the youth has a reputation of being rebellious and bellicose with their parents. Of all the things that the youth argues about with their parents, unfortunately, voting isn’t one of them. Voting, something beneficial to society and to one’s own family, is overlooked too often. For whatever reason, Vahe’s father was anxious to register to vote, but why was he holding his son back? I don’t have an answer to that and I am quite positive that Vahe’s father does not have a concrete justification for his actions either. However, Vahe’s father helped me realize why so many Armenian young adults do not vote. The flawed mindset of the previous generation has tainted the worldview of the youth.
Too many people told me they don’t believe in voting, but of all the people, one young man’s reason amused me most. John, whom I met yesterday at the Navasartians said, “I’m 20 years old, I haven’t voted and I don’t want to vote.” I hope he lives for a hundred years and I hope sometime between now and the next eighty years of his life, he realizes that what he did for the past two years doesn’t define the rest of his life. I spent about twenty minutes trying to convince John and his two friends, Arthur and Johnny, that voting is integral to the advancement of the Armenian Cause; unfortunately, all to no avail as they adamantly refused to register to vote.
Though there were many people reluctant to register to vote, others who were more willing gave me the encouragement I needed to keep trying. Fred, a middle aged man, told me that he had recently started reading about politics and wanted to vote in upcoming elections. If hugging strangers was not socially unacceptable, I would have loved nothing more than to hug this man. I met many great people who were appreciative of the work the ANCA-WR interns were doing and allowed us to help them to register to vote! Thank you!!!!
This blog is dedicated to all the Armenians-Americans that only talk the talk but do not walk the walk. It is not enough to say that you are a proud Armenian; you also have to do something to benefit Armenians and your community. Thank you to all the great people who registered to vote and will actively participate in elections.
To all of you who have not registered, please take the time to fill out a registration form and vote in the upcoming elections on November 6. Online voter registration is now available at http://ancawr.org/vote/. The only thing that differentiates you as a citizen is your right to vote. Use your rights!
P.S. If you are a US citizen, you are already eligible for jury duty, so please do not let that hold you back from registering to vote!