By Karen Karabian
We shall forget. We shall forget the pain, the anger, the loss. We shall forget the evil done to us by man and by you, God. We shall forget the hate that has tortured our souls. And bit by bit we shall grow whole.
We Shall Forget was written by Vahan Tekeyan in 1918. I chose to read the poem during the Vigil held at Holy Trinity Amenian ChurchTuesday, April 23. It was the night before the Armenian people would commemorate the Armenian Genocide. It was a night that left me empty.
I cannot say that I wasn’t moved by the unity, the effort or that the speeches fell on deaf ears. I was moved and I felt something, but it was not real.
I stood before a small gathering of Armenians and betrayed them. I spoke into the microphone set high above the audience that assembled in folding chairs. They sat in repetitive rows on the grass beside the church. Every word and every breath that nervously leapt from my mouth was amplified. As I read Tekeyan’s words I thought –Why am I here?
The message I told was so important, but it was not my place to tell it. Those that sat before me grasped the tragedy so much more than I. For me the sorrow was so mechanical, so meaningless. It was a scheduled meeting with scheduled prayers and scheduled compassion.
What I felt was confined. I was forced to remember the Armenian Genocide in the way others deemed I should.
The calendar said it was time. It was time to grieve. I was told it was my duty to grieve. And not only grieve, but I must be seen and heard doing so. I was expected to share a piece of the tragedy with fellow Armenians and friends. It was my responsibility to relive the tragic past and capture the dying heartbeat of our own land once again.
At times the redundancy and formality of it all was overwhelming. My devotion had been programmed and my participation automatic. It was a night that left me empty.
But I wanted, I needed to let the passion and fire burn freely inside my heart. I choose to remember the massacre in a way that is invisible to the world. It is alone that I express sadness. Alone that I talk to God. Alone, in silence.
April 24 is marked with the remembrance of insult, injury and grief. Armenians believe they must exemplify the terror and outrage that bred an immeasurable hate in their souls. We need to be sorry.
I am not sorry. On April 24 I celebrate an awesome people that triumphed. You are here, I am here. And we are prisoners to no one.
God’s plan is unknown, but I can never doubt that He is all-knowing. I will never doubt that He has made us stronger, more unified as a result of our terrible plight so long ago. And that is what I celebrate– our strength, our reluctance to wither away, our freedom. This does not make me any less of an Armenian.
The present and the future of Armenians have been placed in His hands and soon we can truly sing and love, unchained as free men.
I will do what I can. We will do what we can. And God will do what we cannot.