Posted by panchmaster from host-148-244-221-138.block.alestra.net.mx (18.104.22.168) on Monday, November 11, 2002 at 3:39PM :
Why doesn't Andre Aghassi admit to being half Assyrian? His father, Assyrian to the bone, was a championship boxer back in Iran. Certainly the father's love of sports and his undoubted support and encouragement were there for the son. His father did try to interest the Assyrian community in his son's abilities and ambition. If you want to be a professional tennis player these days it means a lot more than hitting the ball against a backstop or playing the game with your father or friends. You need to go to Tennis Camp as soon as you can afford the fee...you have to be driven here there and everywhere. You need equipment and special classes and clothing and diet. Special arrangements have to be made to pick you up and take you places, travel expenses, medical costs, and indeed all sorts of trials and troubles await not just the hopeful kid, but the whole family. Like anything else, it takes money, and money was as short in the Aghassi family as it is in most...especially for these kinds of things.
I've heard from someone who knows Andre's father well that people in our community were approached for help in meeting the costs. As a well known athlete himself with the kind of achievement we take "pride" in, Andre's father probably felt people would take him seriously...would believe that he wasn't just wishing when he descried that burning ambition a kid needs to have in abundance if he is to stick it through despite all hardships and discouragement.
He may have believed that, but I know what sort of reception he met with...know it well. People thought he was pimping his son to make some cash for himself. Thought his very sincerity was the mark of his "cleverness" at finding a sure thing. After being rejected by all he applied to, the mother's Armenian community was approached. Armenians know they have talented and capable youngsters. They know it takes a hand up from somewhere to develop that talent...and they have enough sense of the world to know you have to take chances sometimes if you want to get off your knees and stand tall. They also value their Heritage enough to want to keep their talented people in it. And so Andre Aghassi got the help he needed to become the excellent, world class and world famous player he is...and the Armenian community earned his life-long respect...while our Assyrian people earned his equally sincere contempt. Everyone got just what they deserved. Except that our humiliation and penchant for courting shame, knowing no bounds since we are a "Great" people, led us to hope and expect and wish that one day Andre would come back to his "roots"...play a few rounds at the Turlock Civic Country and Bingo Club..."bring your own balls" please...for we hardly have enough to go around ourselves.
Why didn't Jim Bacchus, the voice of Mr. Magoo, co-star of Gilligan's Island...James Dean's father in "Rebel Without A Cause"...come "back". Why do Richard Benjamin, the actor...Terrence Malik, the director, and probaby numerous other Assyrians who "make it" out there...why don't they come back...why don't they? Or better yet...why do they seem to have to leave in the first place before getting anywhere?
I can tell you why, but you'll think I'm either crying or bragging...depending on how long you've been on your knees. I heard the same warnings...felt the same humiliation, like I was a...dare I say it, "Charlatan"...parading myself around as someone who actually thought he could get a monument installed in AMERICA??? And by getting funding in the Assyrian Community??? "Who are you trying to kid"? Even after doing it...I heard people say I did it for the money...that I made lots and lots of money...said it with resentment because no one would pay them a dime for what they had to give "Assyria". Others, the wise and knowing ones, said leave the community...go get famous elsewhere if you can, then come back to us and we'll approve of you...and use you.
Why don't talented musicians and actors and writers and artists stay in the community? Could part of the reason be the poor reception they receive from parents and friends of parents and family, that hoard of hairy, clucking, cooking, force-feeding behemoths most of us are surrounded by from birth...who turn a bored eye to our first tentative steps..."yes that's nice... but when will you become a Doctogineercountant"? Can it be that those first recitals, performed in front of people who seemed never till that moment to have had a single opportunity to discuss the neighbors dirty laundry, while ignoring...or worse...the eager, hoping to please, kid playing his or her heart out on the piano? Can it be that an Assyrian or Chaldean kid's hopes and ambitions can only be maintained if he or she leaves home and the community? Is our community the plce to have your dreams broken, and next your legs?
I ignored the invitations to leave...overlooked the slights, put up with the fawning, the negativity, the "creative advice"...I even ignored the welding, the accusations of deceit all because Janey Golani can't add, even with an MA from night school. I too could have "been somebody"...only now they'll say it is sour grapes speaking...or just a cover for "my own" faiure and inadequacy. Thank god there was a Narsai...thank god that he too left the community far enough behind to develop an aesthetic sense coupled with the kind of innovative thinking and courageous willingness to put his neck on the line for what he believed in...the man who was founding president of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, one of the best regional theatres in America...who has still a deep and abiding love for his Heritage...thank god he threw a line to a drowning sculptor...gave him hope and time and cash so he could pursue his goal.
I stayed in the community to have it out...to be there maybe to inspire other kids to stay...to put up with it all because these people are just scared...are unsure and insecure, a community convinced of its inability to do more than dance on the end of a string held by a Bejan or Nimrod or Golani. A community convinced it carries the disease of lack of faith...of inadequacy...that all it can hope for is oblivion and anonymity...and so, before the outside world looks in to laugh at it...it chases away any who might get the world's notice. Unless they convince the world first...are made safe and given the apbrobation of others...others who "know better", and then and only then is willing to embrace its own.
Except it doesn't work that way. It takes a tough kind of person to come back home after being thrown out to win the neighbor's approval. Why come back at all. No one wants to be fawned over...to be seen to have merit for attention won from others...of having to first prove his or her worth elsewhere before Mummy and Daddy can be expected to take notice. Why not keep going indeed? That's also why we have to fight this thing the Jackster, Nimrod and Golani are trying to do...trying to punish any of us who stay home and try to improve on it...improve on it in ways that will render their own amateur efforts unnecessary...THEY are the inadequate ones...inadequate to the task of providing true leadership or anything really inspiring...so they settle instead for driving out what they perceive as those who are "disloyal" to their vision...which is no more than their need to be leaders and movers and shakers in Assyria...in their SPARE TIME.
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