Bill Mesrobian (1943-1998)
Bill Mesrobian's Hay Tad Essay
I am an Armenian born in the US. I have lived most of my life in the NE states. I hold a deep sense of injustice about what the Armenian people have experienced and I'm outraged that such a crime not only goes unpunished but also is being strongly denied by people who have something to gain by that denial. To my chagrin, the US government is a willing party to this denial.
I have observed that the growth of Armenians as a people has been stunted by the unpunished crimes against them. For all too long, we have been a people of the Diaspora. We have been nomads, looking for a home. What we have found has been either the tolerance that forces us to remain in enclaves for our protection or the embrace of a free society that encourages assimilation. Neither of these conditions promotes our growth as a people.
Now, we have an independent Armenia. But it will take time for it to develop. We have hostile neighbors, we lost too much in 1915 and 70 years of Soviet rule cannot be undone in a few short years. I think we all wish for a strong and healthy Armenia. Let's do our part. Let's not forget that our greatest strength lies in our diasporan communities. Yet, we are a divided people. We have argued amongst ourselves and our opponents have been happy to take advantage of that. The divisions have cost us dearly. Yet, we have accomplished much. But we can do more. I believe it is up to each of us to at least try. And that is what I am doing. I believe that first we must know what forces oppose us and in what arenas. Then take a course of action that will neutralize the efforts of our detractors. There are many ways to do this. Starting in our communities, we can participate in local activities that inform. Let us make our presence felt. Be aware of the fact that too many people have never heard of an Armenian. Even more have no concept of our culture and our history. When confronted with ignorance, let us enlighten. I should expand on that.
The Genocide produced the Diaspora. It cost us 90% of ancestral Armenian lands and retarded our development as a people. Incredibly, it did not destroy us even though that was the stated goal. The world watched in horror as the cruelties mounted beyond human comprehension. But after the War was over, it was not convenient for the victorious powers to bring the criminals to justice. Nor was it convenient to assist the remaining Armenians to return to their homes. We became disenfranchised. Hence, the Diaspora.
Armenians settled where they could and tried to build lives. Those who first came to the Americas thought it would only be temporary. Little did they know they would never see their homes again. But who remembers that today? Who denies that there was a concerted effort to annihilated a people? Who is a participant in that denial? Who pays for the public relations that would have the world forget about the Armenians? And why is this happening? All of us should know the answers to those questions. As has been said, "The last victim of genocide is the truth." It is our job to be sure that the truth does not die.
Why do I spend so much time on something that happened so long ago? Because it is a pivotal event in Armenian history and its effects are felt today. Why are we fighting so hard in Karabagh? Because we do not want to see history repeat itself. Should we all take up a rms and shoot people? Of course not. There is more than one way to fight. In fact, we can do more good right where we are if we only act to educate and to pressure our governments to act in our best interests. This means writing or calling our elected officials, responding to anti-Armenian bias in the news, correcting false statements and voting for those who will support us while in office. How can we do this? First, we must know what events are taking place. We must know as much as possible about our own history and how others would deny it. We must be able to refute those who have perfected the lie. We must be vigilant and watchful. Our detractors must learn that they cannot lie about us or take action against us without a response from the Armenian community. If there is a newspaper article that presents Armenians in a poor light, be ready to write a letter to the editor. If your Representative in Congress votes to give arms to Turkey, call or write to express your dismay and ask why this vote was cast. Make it your job to know that an important vote is going to take place and let your Representative know how you feel about it. This is your right in any free society. It is also your obligation if you expect to have any say in how we are governed.
What am I really saying? The fight for Armenia is going on now! Each of us can play a part. Each of us can make a difference. There are many issues in history that have been decided by a single vote. What if your comments were those that caused that "swing" vote to occur?
In the recent Section 907 vote in Congress, there were several Representatives who voted to retain Section 907 only because one or two of their constituents took the time to call them and explain why this vote was so important. Your voice counts.
But how can we know what is happening in Congress or elsewhere? How can I know what the issues are? That is why I write to you. I have made it my obligation to learn what I can about things that are of interest to the Armenian people. And I am passing to you what I have learned. What you do with this information is up to you. All I can do is encourage, present what I have learned and offer support. This sure is a long way to say something very simple: Knowledge is power. I wish to help you gain some of that power. But if you don't act on it, then the knowledge isn't worth very much.
Now, who am I? When I first thought to write, I wondered what I should say to you. Does it really matter who I am? I thought the answer was NO. Because I thought the betterment of Armenians is what really counts. And I was concerned that our own divisions (what church do I attend; what organizations do I work with; what is my political leaning; etc.) would become obstacles. And I did not want that to be part of this activity. It really doesn't matter to me. My interest is in the betterment of the Armenian condition. But I discovered that some people felt uncomfortable not knowing who they were dealing with. Please forgive me for that. I hope you can understand why I acted as I did.
My name is William Stephen Sachaklian Mesrobian. Most people call me "Bill". I live west of Boston about 30 miles. Far enough from Watertown that I don't eat too much of that wonderful bakery food...:) I work with anybody who is interested in the Armenian Cause. Much of my activity has been with the ANC, but I also have contact with the Assembly, was involved in its inception, and work closely with many in that organization. I have only moderate interest in Armenian political parties because I question whether they adequately reflect either the times or the conditions of the Diaspora. I don't care if there is one or two Sees of the Armenian Church. There are good historical reasons why the two major Sees exist. It is up to the Church officials to decide whether it makes sense to continue this. However, I do not endorse the divisiveness that causes people to judge a fellow Armenian simply because of which church he or she attends. That makes no sense to me.
I'm as opinionated as any Armenian. That is my birthright. But I'd rather play tavloo with an Armenian than argue with him. I have a family, a home and a mortgage. My occupation? I'm working on my 3rd career and thinking about moving on. I love learning. For its own sake. And to me, the most important objects in my home are on my bookshelves. If I can transfer some of my love of knowledge to others, then I'm a lucky man.
Just a few more items: The two Armenians I've admired most have been my grandfather and Victor Hampartsumian. I'm blessed to have known them both. My hobbies have changed as I've crept into my 50's. I no longer ski, pilot aircraft, skydive or hang glide. But I still look up at night and wonder at the marvel of the stars. I would rather have one good friend than a thousand acquaintances. My favorite author is Mark Twain. And one of my favorite quotes is from him: "Never lie when the truth will serve."
- Special thanks to Carissa Vanitzian who provided all of the materials for this page. Bill was a true warrior with a heart full of good. He is missed by many of his close friends who knew him over the internet and never had a chance to meet him in person.