From the Margins: Seeking a more balanced view

Glendale News Press, CA
Aug 18 2007

Seeking a more balanced view


Sometimes it’s interesting to read an individual’s interpretation of
my column. On the rare occasion when a reader chooses to refer to my
surname and attribute inaccurate conclusions back to it, I face a

Do I answer, or do I turn the other cheek? I often choose the latter.

There is a risk in this approach. And that is that another reader may
only read the reply, and therefore attribute the interpretations back
to me. No one wants to be stuck with this.

Recently, I read a backhanded compliment about my `thoughtful column’
regarding the Sandoval family tragedy.

In the column, I stated: `Referring to owners of certain model cars
has sometimes been used to describe a segment of our city’s
population.’ At least one person interpreted this as a bi-product of
a chip on the shoulder.

Apparently, not having a chip on the shoulder requires standing
silent when the mudslinging continues. Of course, with the help of a
bunch of nouveau riche, arrogant young drivers, this campaign seems
to always have fuel. It’s a shame.

But why refer to the car model or the unshaven face of the drivers if
race and ethnicity aren’t the target? Is the behavior negative or the

Of course, if this `chip on the shoulder’ label is successfully
attributed to my column, this discredits the message. This reverse
psychology can work on people with an inferiority or superiority
complex about their ancestry. I have neither.

My experience with the Armenian-American community (as well as
others) is generally positive; I shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it. My
experience is also more substantive than a few whose pastime is to
see the glass as half-empty.

My family members are hard-working people who feel privileged to
pursue the American dream. The circle of my friends – non-Armenian
and Armenian – is no different. They are hard-working, intelligent
people. More importantly, they are family people; they are
responsible fathers and caring mothers; they teach their children the
value of hard work, education and tolerance. That is my experience. I
respect and love my family and my friends. Is my experience
all-encompassing? No. But, neither are shallow generalizations.

It wouldn’t be right for me to stereotype any segment of our city to
gain brownie points.

Are there problems in the Armenian community? Yes. I pride myself in
being one of the few writers who’s written about domestic violence,
divorce and suicide, and I have offered solutions.

I’ve done this knowing full well that a few would use this to feed

But what community is free of issues? I should stress that by putting
things in context, I’m not making excuses. Context is important, and
selective criticism is not just.

Regardless, one community may have a higher number of serial killers,
and another may have a higher percentage of gang violence.

But if I meet a person from these communities, I treat the person as
an individual. I won’t be redundant, but in the column in question,
one of my main points was the responsibility of ethnic organizations,
TV stations and the church in addressing problems; I also singled out
parents for their obligation to keep their kids in check.

A few people ignored this paragraph.

On one occasion, I was referred to as an `Armenian writer.’ I am a
writer, period. I write about non-Armenians and Armenians. But, there
is a large presence of residents with Armenian ancestry in this city.
It’s natural that my column will reflect this.

If I can be labeled as an `Armenian writer,’ then the substance of
what I say becomes irrelevant, and my master status becomes `the
Armenian’ – not a writer, not an American, not someone who cares, but
`the Armenian.’

This was a clever effort to discredit my message, but people know

I have no doubt that a great majority of residents welcome a balanced
and less adversarial approach to issues. Yes, we should not be afraid
to talk about problems, but we should also have the capacity to
distinguish between healthy criticism in good faith and a smear

 PATRICK AZADIAN is a writer and the creative director of a
local marketing and graphic design studio living in Glendale. He may
be reached at respond@