Aug 18, 2019
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Taking issue with extremism

As a junior majoring in political science and a Christian Armenian born and raised in Armenia, the extremist labeling from all sides and all issues concerns me.

In my opinion, the reason the government has shut down is because there is no longer bipartisanship or moderation left in the politicians and citizens. 

I recently read the op-eds of Sumaya Attia and Haley Lambert. As an Armenian that is still adjusting to American ways, I realized that the issues being discussed are related to my concerns.

Nowadays most “heated” issues have become black and white, when in reality, those are the issues that are the most complex and convoluted.

If you believe there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute George Zimmerman, you are perceived as a racist. If you agree with writings of Ayn Rand, you are perceived as a die-hard libertarian. If you believe that many Palestinians in Israel are being treated unjustly, you are called an anti-Semite, and the list goes on.

It shocks and terrifies me how confident people on both sides are and how many “moderates,” such as myself, shy away from these topics. We believe that if we take the “middle man” position and question both sides, we will be perceived as weak and uneducated.

Having been raised in Armenia and taught history in Armenia until I was in my teens, I have studied Armenian history extensively.

In 301 A.D., Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity. Since then, Armenia has been brutally attacked by several Islamic nations, until it all escalated into the Armenian Genocide of 1915 carried out by Muslim Turks.

Growing up in Armenia and reading Armenian literature, in which writers and historians extensively discuss the atrocities that Christian Armenians underwent during those wars and the genocide, one can’t help but be raised biased against all Muslims.

However, when I moved to the United States and met many peace-loving Muslims from all over the world and as I was humbled in Jerusalem by Muslim hospitality, I understood that even this heated issue is not black and white.

Attia and Lambert wrote about why one should not or should have to denounce extremist factions of one’s religion or ethnicity.

As an Armenian and a Christian, I disagree that denouncing extremist factions of your ethnicity or religion is unfair or prejudicial.

As a Christian, I disassociate myself from Christian entities such as Westboro Baptist Church or even the preachers that come on this campus and scream about hell and punishment.

In Oct. 2011, in Los Angeles, 52 Armenians were convicted of a $160 million nationwide Medicare fraud.

At the time, I felt great shame, and my Armenian pride was hurt.

Now in Los Angeles, it seems like when you say you are an Armenian, the non-Armenians do not always welcome you, as they associate you with those people who commit fraud.

I don’t let this get me too angry. After all, bad news travels fast and so do stereotypes.

Instead, I express my deepest regrets that some Armenian-Americans were involved in such activity. Then I educate the prejudiced people about my heritage (as that is my responsibility and no one else’s!) and assure them that there are far more hard-working and patriotic Armenian-Americans.

It is my opinion that controversial or heated issues are no longer being talked about because the extremists of both sides don’t allow conversations to happen.

Being moderate about some controversial issues should not be equivocated with being weak or apathetic.

Neither side should be hurt or offended when others question them about their religion or ethnicity.

 

Megi Hakobjanyan emigrated to Fresno, Calif. from Yerevan, Armenia during her freshman year of high school. When she graduates, she plans to work in the field of foreign affairs. 

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