One Hundred Years of Genocide

“When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact. . . I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915”.
– Henry Morgenthau
U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, 1913-1916

Before Hitler’s concentrations camps, before the Cambodian “killing fields”, before Rwanda, there was the Syrian desert. The 20th century was barely 15 years old when it jumped out of the gate to establish itself as a dystopian chapter in world history. On this date in 1915, Armenian intellectuals, clerics, journalists, doctors, and community leaders in Constantinople  received knocks on their doors. On the direct order of Ottoman Interior Minister Talat Pasha, the Armenians were taken to holding centers for detention. And later, deportation. Thus began a barbaric campaign of murder, starvation, long marches, and ethnic cleansing: the Armenian genocide which claimed the lives of 1.5 million souls.

I have, for a long time, detested the now-trite admonition about “those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it”. I detest it not because it isn’t true, but because it goes – decade after decade after decade -unheeded. Of course we fail to remember history. And of course we repeat it. When the world stage is divided into malevolent thugs on one side, and craven deserters on the other side, it will inevitably be repeated.

A more apt assessment can be found in Hannah Arendt’s observation about “the banality of evil”. The deranged, defensive statements issued by the Turkish government to this very day, that the Armenians were slaughtered as some sort of “by-product” of the violence of World War I, exemplifies the lengths some will go to to rationalize, excuse, and quite literally defend atrocities – the intellectual equivalent of “shit happens” as an explanation for savagery.

Armenian genocide victims, photographed by Armin T. Wegner, a German soldier and medic who was an eyewitness to Ottoman crimes:

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During these past few weeks leading up to today’s Centennial, we’ve seen prominent world figures show us what they’re made of. Pope Francis righteously took a stand of truth and moral courage, provoking the unhinged ire of Turkish officials. I think I can speak for all Armenians when I say it was a thing of beauty. In stark contrast Barack Obama, the purported “leader” of the free world, engaged in a sad, embarrassing spectacle of capitulation to Turkey’s gag rule on the G-word, and sits in a corner like a scolded child while his extravagant campaign promises flush down the toilet in a death spiral.

Gutless American Presidents notwithstanding, Armenians have survived and flourished in their diaspora. My grandparents, great aunts and uncles made their way onto ships bound for Ellis Island in New York City, and never looked back. We are teachers, engineers, journalists, entertainers, laborers, writers, photographers, businessmen, musicians, and even artist’s models :-)

Say a prayer today for those 1.5 million who starved and suffered and died face down in the desert, the orphans who watched their mothers and fathers get slaughtered, and thrown into rivers to drown. Say a prayer that genocide will always be recognized for what it is.

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Love and Grape Juice

I bet you never thought that choosing a Welch’s Grape Juice from grocery store shelves with your Mom could be a heartwarming experience. But I’m here to tell you that it can be. At 79, my mother is an extraordinarily active person. She loves to drive, travel, go to museums, socialize, and experience new things. Whenever I tease her with “old lady” jokes she’s not amused :lol: So when Mom, a few weeks ago, was afflicted with a case of the shingles, her active lifestyle and normally robust health was temporarily sidetracked.

Mom’s shingles have fortunately cleared up, but now she’s struggling with nerve pain, a common aftereffect of shingles, and it’s causing her a great deal of sadness and discomfort. One minute she’s fine, and the next minute the neuropathy flares up, causing excruciating pain. Even though it passes quickly, the constant imminent threat of a nerve attack is an unsettling way to live, especially for someone like my Mom who can’t bear the idea of being “disabled” in any way. Having her independence taken from her is Mom’s worst nightmare.

A pastel drawing by Edgar Degas:

DegasCombing

Shingles is the virus that causes chicken pox when it erupts again after lying dormant in the body for decades. I had chicken pox as a child and recall that it sucked. Shingles also sucks. But my mother is having a much harder time with the neuralgia than the shingles.

With Mom now on a steady regimen of B-Vitamins, Omega-3 oils, alpha-lipoic acid (and ibuprofen when she needs it), she’s on the path to recovery. But like the doctor said, each individual is different. For some the neuropathy goes away in four weeks, for others four months. We have no way of predicting. Mom just has to take it one day at a time.

Another pastel by Degas, Rest:

DegasRest

Mom has avoided driving alone which is understandable, so I’ve been doing her grocery shopping for her. With the exception of me picking her up and taking her to a couple of doctor’s appointments she’s been fearful of going out in public or even leaving the house. Not to the beauty parlor, not to the bank, not even to a friend’s house in the neighborhood. This is all so contrary to her nature. I’ve tried to persuade her to come with me for a little shopping, or lunch, or just running errands, but she’s consistently been saying no. Until today.

After a doctor’s appointment this morning she agreed to let me take her to Fairway Market. There we were, strolling through the aisles, Mom totally relaxed, cheerful, and leisurely pushing our shopping cart as we collected our goodies; I tossed in a box of quinoa, some swiss chard, and a one pound bag of freshly ground coffee, Mom put in some cucumbers (her favorite) and two bagels. With great happiness I watched her as she selected a piece of salmon from the fish counter, and took three small yogurts from the dairy section. And then came the moment of Welch’s Grape Juice! Remember when there was only regular Welch’s Grape Juice, for years? Today we have options; fortified with calcium, fortified with Vitamin C, organic, “Farmer’s Pick”, blended with black cherry. As I knelt down and read the choices aloud to Mom we shared a warm, lighthearted moment and were reminded of our old Armenian relative, Aunt Araxi, who lived to be 100 and attributed her longevity to, yes, a daily glass of Welch’s Grape Juice. That was her theory and she stuck with it! Hey why not? And Mom, by the way, ended up choosing the plain old Welch’s “Original”.

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A visit to the market doesn’t usually make for a watershed moment in a person’s life, but if you knew how tormented my mother has been lately due to pain, anxiety, and depression, you would understand the indescribable joy I felt at the sight her smiling, talking to people, and carrying out a routine activity for the first time in weeks. Mom’s comeback is underway. Oh yes it is :-)

All artworks in this post have been pastels because it’s Mom’s favorite medium, and Degas because he’s Mom’s favorite artist.

2014 Send-off

I’m sure I’m not alone in my view that 2014 was a less-than-stellar year in many, many ways. Ebola, missing airplanes, kidnappings, beheadings, shootings, politicians being worthless and incompetent. Well, that last one could apply to any given year. Reading the news is always a dispiriting experience, but 2014 took it to whole new levels of misery and wretchedness. Good lord :(

As for me personally, 2014 was a stew of tumult, leavened occasionally with some bright spots. In February my house was burglarized, which sucked, and not long after that the family strife began, which sucked even more. But then, on the night before Easter, I was born-again. And then came a crisis of confidence in my art modeling career, which was happily healed come September when schools opened again and brought a slew of work, with both reliable mainstays and brand new connections. I was “in demand” once again. Whew! What a relief. And of course my mother’s art show was another notable high point of 2014.

Museworthy had a fine year in blogging, with over 180,000 views, 69 new posts, 148 new subscribers, and visitors from 170 countries with the United States, the UK, France, and Canada leading the pack. I’m honored to blog for each and every one of you, wherever you are around the globe.

We’ll bid farewell to 2014 with two gouache drawings of yours truly by Robert Fontanelli, created at Spring Studio this year. I’m a pink lady and I appreciate Rob making me so glammed up! Thanks for the images, Robert. And thanks to all of you out there. Bring on 2015! Happy New Year, dear friends. See you soon :-)

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The Light Shines

The past couple of days; last minute shopping, wrapping paper sorting, candle-lighting, purchasing wine and cookies, praying, donating to charities, praying some more, and tending the children at church for the Christmas pageant tonight, reminding them of their cues and practicing their songs – it went beautifully by the way. Tomorrow we gather at Mom’s house for Christmas Day in keeping with a Hajian family tradition. And Friday … Friday I can sleep! Is anyone else feeling spent?

Although it’s Wednesday night – Christmas Eve – we’ll turn this post into a “Music Monday” with the Grammy award winning Soweto Gospel Choir, performing “This Little Light of Mine”. Tremendous performers, rich inspirational voices. I wish for my readers all the joy, exultation, warmth and rebirth of the season. Blessings, always ..

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house”
Matthew 5:14-15

Statements and Passages

“Put up a new blog post already.” <– my mother to me on the phone the other night. See what I have to deal with? My life is a living hell!! Yes, I’m kidding :lol: Actually Mom’s right. What the heck’s going on here? A new post is way overdue. I hope you all had a good week in the interim.

Speaking of Mom, her art show at the Queens Botanical Garden is still on view, providing joy and enchantment to all the family friends and QB Garden visitors who have seen it. It closes on January 17th. I helped my mother write her artist’s statement for her show and I think it came out pretty well. I’m mentioning this because an artist I know sent an email to several of us that I got a kick out of. So I thought I’d share it here. The “artist’s statement”, which I imagine is a somewhat new formality, appears on artist’s websites and promotional materials. The artist who sent the article I’m sharing told me she has no artist’s statement on her website because she thinks it’s stupid and pretentious. She has a point. Some of them, not all, can be quite pompous, particularly the ones that use postmodern language and theoretical terminology. You can’t help but roll your eyes when you read some of them. 

So John Seed, a painter and art history professor, wrote up some artist’s statements for the old masters using postmodern rhetoric, and they’re hilarious. For example, Michelangelo’s begins with, “The pre-homoeroticized body forms both my field of action and the basis of my conceptual taxonomy.” The one for Velázquez’ reads in part, “In addressing the collapse of personal autonomy and identity in an authoritarian/monarchist space I imply a multiplicity of didactic constructions and formations.” Click here for the entire article. The ending is great.

Also, my beautiful talented niece Olivia turned 12 yesterday which boggles the mind because it feels not so long ago that I saw her for the first time, on a cold December day, at Mount Sinai Hospital when she was just a few hours old. And now she’s a young lady! Kicking butt at JV basketball, student government, and of course her voice lessons. Olivia has always been the gladdening ray of light in our family and she is now more than ever, given the circumstances. Here she is sitting on steps, like the true Upper West Side city girl that she is. Happy Birthday sweetheart <3

Olivia

And tomorrow, December 7th, will mark ten years since my father’s death. That he’s been gone a decade now is difficult to grasp. A decade since that harrowing morning when I was roused from sleep by my brother banging loudly on my door at 7 AM. Olivia was only two years old when Dad left us. Sadly, she has no memory of him, her grandfather.

Thanks for reading, friends. And yes I will post again soon  ;-)

Family Evermore

If I had the power to clap my hands twice and magically heal the fractured state of my family’s relations right now, I’d do it in a heartbeat. In fact it would have been done already. I think back on the warmth, kindness, good humor and conviviality that characterized Hajian family gatherings of my youth – and most of my adulthood – and wonder, “How did this happen? Where did all this animus and dissension come from?” :-(

But I can still give thanks, especially so now under the circumstances, that my family is still here .. to see another day … and with each day brings a chance to make things right, and begin anew. Hope is a priceless asset.

On this Thanksgiving of 2014, I offer the Prayer for Families from the Book of Common Prayer. It is particularly apropos for me today, and perhaps for some of you too:

“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary
in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in
which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee,
every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride
of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance,
patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those
who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the
hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the
children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among
us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one
to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

I wish a most blessed Thanksgiving to all of you. Peace, my friends.

Pablo Picasso, Harlequin’s Family, 1905:

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October 31st

As I hang out here at home waiting for the treat-or-treaters to come knocking on my door (they’ll be getting all natural fruit roll-ups whether they like it or not!), I’m debating whether to make this a Halloween post or a Reformation Day post. Children naturally have a blast on this day, but Halloween hoopla among adults seems much more over the top from when I was a kid. On second thought, maybe I’m wrong. I vividly remember the year my Mom took me and my girlfriends to the Greenwich Village Halloween parade when we were about 13, and we all shrieked when a man among the parade marchers opened his trench coat and exposed himself to the crowd. My poor Mom! She wanted to do a fun thing for us and instead we were traumatized by a creepy New York City flasher. Ew. And the Greenwich Village Halloween parade in general? That’s not for kids. Really really not for kids :lol:

So now after having strolled down memory lane, sleazy bits and all, I think I will, as a good Protestant, go with Reformation Day. There are a few epochal events in history that have had monumentally consequential and far-reaching effects. The Reformation was one of them. So here is a portrait of Martin Luther, the Ninety-Five Theses man himself, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526:

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Have a great weekend everybody! Happy Halloween! See you soon.