“Are You Indian?”

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.

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What is Happenning in Istanbul?

“They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park… These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no «hidden agenda» as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there. It is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against its people’s will…No newspaper or TV channel was there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”. I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least. Please post as many as articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word…By so called «complaining» about my country I am hoping to gain:

Freedom of expression and speech,

Respect for human rights,

Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,

The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.”

İnsanlık Hali

To my friends who live outside of Turkey:

I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because at the time of my writing most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.

Last week of May 2013 a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and yoga students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least…

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Dear Radical White Hipsters

I know you feel the need
To lecture everyone in the room
On what you know
I know that because you’re a cool-enough-to-school-others, blonde and blue heroic hipster,
You probably know my heritage a lot better than I do
If being an Armenian was tight enough.
And I could care less about those ironic Anarchist patches
Sewed onto your comfortable racist skin
But learn how to stop teaching others about their bodies
And shut the fuck up and listen
When Women of Color struggle to speak up in spaces you are entitled to.

It was cute, you know, the way you
Fucked up my last name to make it
Somehow echo as easily as yours.
Pilavdjian Mujukian. Say it Right, Jan.
But it wasn’t alright when you called me white, after I said I am not.
Silence. Formally insisting your skin has lived in mine for longer than the hour we met,
Rage. Reducing me to a clear shot like policing identities was your occupation and right,
Ego infiltrated its slickness into my space, spit at
my mother’s wild tongue from my lips, and split the Middle East from my hips
Like your answer was the absolute value of my correctness
because white American men always know what they say.

But what you meant to say was you only think about race
when you can outsmart it, if it’s convenient enough, sexy enough,
That my body is not mine but an apology for you to undermine and
dismiss as you wish like the dialogues you twist towards your own direction.
As if being Armenian is just another word for you to white out
to erase the problems from the name
This is a problem
Because being an ethnic error is not a platform for your
Controversial, quasi-intellectual Marxist-macho bullshit
Because bitches in positions of power
Cannot make fun of the powerless at their own expense

My body is mine.

My body is mine.

My body is mine.

But I didn’t couldn’t any of this. I believed you.
I just wanted to fit in.

But If I loved who I am then I would’ve told you to
Kiss My Oversized Not-optional Armenian ass.
I heard it tastes like a real version of the
Hummus you sell at some vegan restaurant
And it’s fuzzier than that unique Oriental rug
beneath your hardcore punk bands guitars.

Maybe I’m not brown enough so it’s easier for you to define me as a little less than white.
like assimilation would make you more comfortable
Maybe my English makes more sense than my mother’s or I don’t purposely look homeless.
Maybe I don’t veil my haircut that screams unladylike dyke or your mother never taught you any manners.
Maybe Kim Kardashian’s ass is so massive
You can see an atlas on it from the atmosphere
And just because you’ve never heard of where we come from doesn’t mean your imagined geographies are correct.
First, point your fucking finger to Armenia.
Did you think it was next to Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, Blueberria?
Did you think Turkey was in Europe?
Did you fail to realize that before some denied genocide in 1915,
Our native land stretched to Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan and the Syrian
Desert where One and a Half Million bones still sleep
She is the Cradle of Civilization, a country in shadows but her people of the sun

Did you think that your Western Ideas of race apply to the rest of the world, or that North Africans and Palestinians are Caucasian? South Asians are yellow? And since Hispanic is not a race, do you think they are white, that discrimination against immigration does not exist?

But I don’t blame you for our invisibility or for not knowing this.
The U.S. government still denies the Armenian
Genocide because they have a military base for
Terrorism in Turkey and my history or heritage
Was never taught in your language.
But let’s stroll through my hood, Glendale, the town of Brown Down.
I know that shit would make you uncomfortable.
Where everyone is My Friend, rocking fresh
off the boat gold chains, reeking of hookah,
Cologne, Zankou Chicken and Cigarettes
Or as my neighbors call us
illiterate ignorant immigrants and when
they don’t say it they think it.
Because low-key I think you really stupid if you can’t spot
An Armo in a crowd of white folks.

But the deepest difference is you were born
to be anybody you wanted, as loud as you wanted
Your voice is more valuable than a country,
Where its women speak in traditions of
silence in kitchens and children, threatened by their
men who think the whiter the BMW the lighter their skin.
We don’t have friends. We have family that stuck to
us with our ancestors blood and we never tell
anyone else how hard our country is crumbling.

I am an outsider. Too queer to be Armenian
but humble enough to appreciate it,
Hungry for company because I never
learned of Queer or Feminists or any sort
of Radical Armenians after years of
Googling them. Instead I found solidarity
in other communities that struggle to be heard,

You have never struggled to sing
And I don’t care if you’re a
Also an Environmentalist straight-edge vegan,
Tattooed like a coloring book
God-hating radical Anarchist
You’re not a fucking minority if you chose to be.

So don’t laugh at my face
For not knowing the words you know
Without knowing that English
Is not my first language
Don’t laugh at my hairy ass
or that I’ve gotten my mustache
lasered twenty times and
I still can grow a more badass beard than yours.
Don’t think I am free to love
without knowing strangers have
tried to marry me for citizenship status
Don’t make fun of my family
for the way we run shit
Without knowing my sick sixty year old single mother
Works in a sweatshop

Because Immigrants are natural born radicals
We never rebelled against our parents
But the land we were never welcomed in
To dream and to die
By this country for a better life
And pray to never forget
Where our seeds were born

But you’re right. I am totally white.
I just needed you to tell me I am wrong.

Armenian women …

Armenian women are strong, confident human beings who should be given equal opportunities and equal rights in all aspects of life and should be respected by not only men and women alike, but they should respect themselves, their wants, desires, needs and their bodies. Women, do not feel obligated to carry cultural crosses. Being a strong, independent woman doesn’t replace your Armenian culture, it enhances it.”

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