Two months ago I was attacked by a German Shepherd. She clamped onto my wrist, swung it like a bone, and punctured it in 12 spots. Today I finally went to get physical therapy and left the office feeling more emotionally healed.
When I walked in, I saw a man receiving a hand treatment who I assumed to be Armenian. His accent revealed he was Indian. I was wearing my UC Davis shirt, because it’s large and comfortable and I don’t give a shit about what I look like when I wake up. We all start chatting.
“UC Davis, huh?”
“Yeah, I’ll be moving there next month.” It still seems very surreal.
The old man began talking about his two daughters and what they’re studying. I told him that my sister is going to a medical school in the Caribbean. He asked me if I was Indian because they do that, too. I said that I’m Armenian.
“Ah, yes, same thing.”
It turns out that both the physical therapist and him live in Glendale, so they have a lot of experience with us.
“Do they think you’re Armenian there?”
“All the time. My name is Saran. They call me Suren. Same thing.”
I thought this was very interesting. So I asked him more questions, like if he would consider Armenians to be Europeans or Mid Easterners.
“You know, they really like to call themselves European. But that is mad! Very mad. They take pride in being Caucasian, but actually, the borders today don’t properly define the region. The Caucasians actually originated in Afghanistan, and the Europeans saw that all the education and universities developed from that region- the Persian Empire, the Ottoman Empire… Armenians also like to say they are the cradle of civilization, but modern cities actually originated elsewhere. Look up the Harappa Civilization. History doesn’t exist, until 2,000 years ago.”
The conversation took a slight turn from geography towards religion, and the physical therapist and I were jotting down some reference notes. I thought this was interesting because on the way to the office I was listening to the Michael Slate Show on KPFK during which he interviewed Pamela J. Olson, a young female author and Stanford graduate who spent two years in Ramallah, Palestine. She published a book called “Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland.” (On a side note, I described Armenia as a “homeless homeland” in my zine.) Although this reminds me of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, a prison drama that hooked a huge audience predominantly because the main character is a middle-class white girl, and not a poor Black woman/PoC, the way Olson verbally described her experience moved me to fucking tears. So many tears. Even listening to her reaction to the lives of Palestinians enraged me so much. On one hand, as the host was offering a film about a Palestinian family whose son was shot and killed by the Israeli military and used for their target practice, Olson described the inexplainable hospitality of the Palestinians, and how their 2,000 year old olive trees were uprooted from their homes. I instantly tied this back to Armenia, and our trademark hospitality being among the only incentive for tourism, and how my father grew up in a small village called Zeytun (Olive) and how his father witnessed his family slaughtered in that same town. There are only so many headlines and reports you can hear about these things, like destroying Olive trees, but until someone changes that tone or until an outsider recites their personal account, then we can slowly understand the pain and the injustice that’s happening.
“Religion is a pointless thing.” Saran began enlightening me. “It is all the same. There is only one. In India and in the Middle East, we were thriving before Jesus came. And you know the difference between Islam and Christianity? The Prophet Muhammad came hundreds of years after Jesus. Even Armenians had secret caves they prayed inside. Even Indians didn’t worship humans until they made the temples. And Israel and Palestine? This conflict is pointless. It’s been going on since Abraham was alive. His son Ishmael was Muslim, and Ishmael’s cousin Isaac was Jewish. Since, they’ve been cousins fighting for power. And whoever’s in power keeps everybody believing that they are different.”
We are all the same, even though we are born to believe otherwise, through different Gods, different words that define us created by European men, everything is the same.