Glendale College's Student Magazine
Thursday November 23rd 2017

The Language of Loss

Language connects us. We are able to communicate with strangers, and isolate ourselves for a moment from the rest of our surroundings. We can say things that others won’t understand, and it makes us feel powerful. We enjoy meeting others with the same background as us, so we can speak our own language. It connects us. We feel comfort being around those we can easily communicate with. Unfortunately, that communication is lost between certain families. Imagine two people who share the same blood, culture, and house that simply cannot understand one another’s language. I grew up, knowing very little about my culture. I refused to speak Armenian, learn about Armenians, and refused to admit that I was Armenian. This was my fear of becoming a social pariah.

As a child, I was unable to comprehend why speaking Armenian was so important to my mother. Until this year. I was standing alongside a grandmother, holding her grandson’s hands on April 24. We were surrounded by thousands of other Armenians, protesting outside of the Turkish Consulate. The little boy asked his grandmother a question. It was a question that she could not answer in the English language, though she tried. She heavily struggled to get the words out, knowing the answer was important to him. At that moment, I sensed a great disconnection between them. I felt sympathetic towards both the individuals. I now understood how disconnected my mother felt with me.

Armenians try their best to hold tight onto their culture, but no matter how much of it gets lost, it is brought back on one significant day. April 24, 1915, was the start of the massacre perpetrated by the Turkish people in an attempt to eliminate the Armenian race. Although they did not succeed, they killed over 1.5 million Armenians, and took over the majority of land otherwise known as Western Armenia. Every year, hundreds to thousands of Armenians gather for a peaceful march to commemorate the genocide all over the world. As the years have gone by, more and more cultures, celebrities, and even political figures have joined us to speak up on human rights.

Professor Odett Zeynalyan at Glendale Community College has a fear of Armenians marrying outside of the community. “There aren’t many Armenians left within the world. If Armenians start marrying other cultures, the Armenian race will slowly disappear,” said Zeynalyan. However, anthropologist Madlen Avetyan has a different take. “There are a lot of individuals who have married non-Armenians who have embraced their Armenian identity more than those who have married Armenians. I have seen individuals who have married non-Armenians, and choose to teach their children Armenian from a very young age;’ she said. “While at the same time, I have seen couples where both parents are Armenian speak strictly English to their young child. To me, that loss of language is a bigger crime against the identity than marrying outside of the culture,” she explained. This is an issue I’ve grown to understand throughout the years.

While watching the little boy try to understand the broken English his grandmother was speaking in, I felt extremely grateful for having had parents that never gave up on instilling my culture into my soul. Language is a big part of a culture, but I’ve come to find out that the ritual Armenians perform once a year is much greater. I might have witnessed a connection being lost between two relatives, but there was a force pulling our spirits together. That is the magic of marching. Children, teens, and adults of all ages become one. I march not only to raise awareness, but to be in one spot with complete strangers that I still call my family. Maybe it’s the guilt of finding myself in my culture at such an old age. Maybe it’s the guilt of putting my family to shame when I wasn’t able to answer where my family was from for the longest time. It might even be the guilt of having no knowledge of the Armenian Genocide until I was 16 years old. Whatever the reason is, I will continue to march. March for those who died, and march in celebration for those who have survived.

     

About Anet Zeynalyan

Anet Zeynalyan is an English major at Glendale
Community College.

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