Letter: "The Armenian-Americans," A PBS Documentary - 2000
In his letter to the editor (The Armenian Reporter Int’l, March 25, 2000), Mr. George Maksian criticizes the AGBU-sponsored program on the Armenian-Americans recently shown on the NY Public Television station WLIW. Although he is justified in being critical, he misses the mark. It isn’t a question of who was included or excluded. It’s more a question of what activities we busy ourselves with that identify us as Armenians in America. I have no problem with anything depicted that reflects the American side of our lives. It’s the Armenian side that bothers me. The way that an Armenian-American goes about describing and retaining his identity does not simply involve recalling family gatherings on Sunday afternoons for shish kebab and reminding others that because our names end in IAN it makes us Armenian. It’s more a matter of culture and its perpetuation under impossible conditions.
Where was the documentary of things that would give us a more meaningful representation of that Armenian side? Where was the showing of the effort to put our children in an Armenian environment, educationally, religiously, socially and any other way we can? Where was Saturday Armenian school, church choir, summer camp, social and political gatherings on behalf of Armenia, the Martyrs’ Day observances? Where were the choral and dance groups? Or meeting up in the summer with fellow Armenians at the Jersey Shore or in the Catskill Mountains? Where were the hantesses with the plays, recitations, songs, and dances?
After the documentary has described the horrors of the Genocide, for someone to pop up with the comment that Armenians love life is a banality. It makes one wonder if the producers of the program are at all aware of the rich culture of the Armenians, a culture that many have sacrificed comforts for, just so it will not perish. Have we become so assimilated, that we have forgotten what it was that fostered our identity as Armenians? The production of a program about the Armenian-Americans was a rare opportunity to show our real natures. What a shame to succeed only in impressing others with our superficialities.