The following is an extended treatment of events described in Chapter Four of My Brother's Road. It covers events in Monte's life from the age of seventeen to the age of twenty (Summer 1975 to Spring 1978).

The Open Road: An Extended Version of Part of Chapter Four

Before Monte graduated from high school, our mother wrote to Congressman Bob Mathias, of the eighteenth congressional district, to request that one or both of her sons be admitted to West Point Naval Academy. I’m not sure what response if any she received from Mathias, a former decathlon champion and Hollywood Tarzan. In any case, Monte had different plans for his education.

In late summer 1975, he moved into an apartment with a couple of graduate students across from People’s Park in Berkeley and entered the University of California as a Regents’ Scholar. He began his studies as a mathematics and history double major, but after excelling in four higher math courses, he switched to an individualized major in Ancient Asian History and Archaeology. He told me he had changed majors because he was “antsy” to graduate as soon as possible and to re-enroll in the school of life. So even as dozens of other brash young math whizzes in the Bay Area were setting the groundwork for the personal computer revolution and hundred-million-dollar fortunes, Monte set out in a different direction, heading towards a less metaphorical sort of revolution. He would never look back long enough to regret it.

Monte regularly petitioned the university for permission to exceed full semester course loads. He would crawl out the window of his library carousel and read on the roof for hours, studying Sanskrit and the works of the third-century Buddhist logician Nagarjuna, with his twelve categories of negation. In a neat, angular script peppered with Chinese characters but devoid of doodles, he jotted hundreds of pages of notes on the histories of ancient Mesopotamia, India, and China. By this time, he was about five feet-eight, with broad shoulders, long legs, and a hard belly. His protruding brow and bulbous nose--a product of Kiramidjian genes, enhanced by his recent encounter with the Kaweah River rock--framed intense eyes, a full mouth, and a handsome chin periodically fringed by scraggly whiskers. His uniform was jeans, usually cut off at mid-thigh, a tee shirt, and zoris, the cheap rubber sandals with nylon straps. Naturally, he took it as a compliment when an acquaintance described the total effect as Australian Aboriginal.

Smiles came easily to him, and booming laughter, too. Sometimes, though, he came across as more bashful than boisterous. Meeting a new acquaintance, he would raise his eyebrows almost apologetically and dip his head in a residual bow, a habit he had acquired in Japan. When he listened, his upper lip would thicken, exaggerating the impression of an overbite. Taking leave, he would drawl “OK there…” flashing a palm at his interlocutor and suppressing a shy smile, before striding off.

An inveterate eater, he became an expert at the stealthy procurement of food. He and his buddy Joel would “hash” in the kitchen of a sorority house on Haste Street east of campus, and at the end of the shift they would walk away, their pockets bulging full of purloined goodies. On off-nights, Monte would invite himself to meals at a Hare Krishna ashram. Once he and Maile even accepted a dinner invitation from Unification Church proselytizers, but they didn’t return because the food and conversation were insufferable. Some weekends, he would put on his best jeans, saunter into Chinese wedding receptions with a few words of Cantonese, and head straight for the buffet table. At one such reception, a hotel manager discovered Monte hiding under a table, but instead of evicting the moocher, the manager arranged for him to eat his full in the kitchen. “The guy was nice,” my brother reminisced years later. For dessert, he would stroll to the botanical garden and pluck the apple-size fruit from a Colombian cactus.

For a while, Monte worked nightshift at a donut shop, reading at the counter until dawn, and then dashing straight off to his morning classes. He worked at other odd jobs, too, but tried to avoid menial labor as a way of supporting himself through college. With the semi-serious intention of making a quick million on a novelty item, he produced a prototype for a manual transmission gear-shifting handle, consisting of a smooth pebble with a metal thread. Dubbing it the Odd Rock (an allusion to the Pet Rock, a faddish gag gift at the time), he took steps to patent the thing and searched without success for a company to buy the design. No big deal. He would find other ways to make a buck.

After reading some books on gemology and investing in a jeweler’s glass, he took orders and advance payments for rubies from friends, then he bought a ticket to Thailand. From Bangkok, the fledgling entrepreneur made his way east, to ruby mines that had been abandoned due to the war raging a few kilometers away, in Cambodia. He selected rough stones at the mines and brought them back to Bangkok to be cut.

When he returned from this stint, I went with him to the California Jewelry Mart on Hill Street in Los Angeles to obtain certificates of the rubies’ value. The first jewel assessor we visited was a living caricature of a greedy Levantine merchant. The assessor squinted at the stones through a jeweler’s glass and then sneered an assessment in the low three digits--far below what Monte had paid for them. “As a favor,” he offered to buy the stones on the spot, just to spare us the embarrassment of having to show such inferior merchandise to anyone else.

I winced. At about this time, one of Monte’s investors, a nervous fellow whom my brother had described as a “good guy,” had accused him of paying more for the stones than they were worth. Now, this assessor at the Jewelry Mart was confirming my fear that some rock-peddling shyster in Thailand had cheated my little brother, the lapidary naïf that he was, out of a bundle of money that didn’t even belong to him!

Glancing sidelong at Monte, though, I was doubly surprised to see that his expression had not changed at all. Saying nothing, he shifted his weight ever so slightly into a seiza karate stance and tightened his muscles. When the assessor lowered his jeweler’s glass and looked up, his cockiness vanished, and he took a step back. “You know karate, don’t you?” he squeaked. Monte’s eyes narrowed: He was not about to “get gypped” by this clown. The assessor meekly handed the stones back, and I followed Monte out the door. A moment later, to my great relief, an assessor at another counter certified that the rubies were worth the four-digit sum that Monte had expected.

During another ruby expedition in December 1975, Monte and his travelling companion, Michael Burlingham, contracted amoebic dysentery at a street-side juice stand somewhere between Bangkok and Mandalay. When I went to the airport to meet Monte’s return flight, he was so emaciated that I didn’t recognize him until he was just a few feet away. Before he had recovered, though, he had converted money from an academic scholarship into an airplane ticket to Rio de Janeiro, where he spent the first days of the semester cavorting with local friends in a samba school during Carnival.

“There are people who have convinced themselves that they cannot do certain things under certain conditions,” Monte wrote a dozen years later, as he pondered the question: Why do people deny themselves the pleasure of swimming on rainy days? “Those people do not totally benefit from the world and their own lives. Life is much more interesting and pleasant if only you have an open mind and you have a spirit to take initiatives.”

At the slightest provocation, he would toss a toothbrush and a few history books into a flight bag, sling it over a shoulder, and head for the highway. While his fellow students were poring over textbooks in the library, he would be hunkered down on a freeway on-ramp, headed north or south between San Francisco and Mexico with a cardboard sign announcing “ANYWHERE BUT HERE.” To him, as to Basho, Whitman, Jack London, and other poets of the road that he read, freedom was first and foremost freedom of movement, and the best picture of freedom was the open road.

Monte hitchhiking near Fresno

Crayon in hand, Monte scrawled his moniker on the back of many a freeway entrance sign. Once, he and Joel hopped on a flatbed train car in the Oakland freight yard and showed up in Los Angeles eighteen hours later covered with soot from head to toe, their hair sticking out like wattle. At the end of the journey, Monte described being jolted awake by a long, piercing whistle and opening his eyes in pitch darkness, to find himself on his back, hurtling through a tunnel. He held his hands in front of his face, but could see nothing. “For a split second,” he reported to me still awed, “I was sure I was dead! I thought, ‘So this is what it’s like to be dead!’”

Rather than slowing down after his first year at Berkeley, he picked up the pace. In another breathless letter to the folks, he signed off as follows:

So many things have been coming up, but time is going by too quickly to do anything about it. I’ve gone over 1200 miles on a motorcycle in the last 6 days, and I’ll be seeing Mark in L.A. again in two days. Time is going fast, so I’ll just talk to you instead.


Monte began his second year at Berkeley sharing an apartment just north of campus with his Cousin David, a Japanese friend, and the lease-owner, an “American” kid named Barney. He quickly wearied of Barney’s sex-centered banter, and Barney, for his part, viewed his roommate as irresponsible, anarchic, and slightly manic. Monte didn’t take out the trash on prescribed mornings; he would come and go at all hours of the day or night, and he’d disappear for days without notice. Worst of all, he was constantly hatching schemes that Barney would overhear every now and then in alarming snippets of conversation: a ruby expedition to Cambodia; a plan to film an exorcism in the Philippines; a plan to join an archaeology dig in Peru, and so on.

At about this time, Monte hitched a ride to the Carmel Valley, where the old abbot from Sung Kwang Sa had arrived from Korea to dedicate a new Buddhist temple. The temple and dormitory were nestled between low foothills and a riverbed fringed by sage, cypress trees and coyotes. There, the abbot of the new temple, Reverend Han Sang Lee, presented Monte, the erstwhile Egg, with a new Buddhist name, Bop San Gor Sa, or “Mountain of the Dharma.” There, too, Monte met Soun Sunim, a monk from Korea who slept upright in full lotus position, at the foot of a Monterey pine. Monte and I would spend a few days at the temple every now and then. One of those days I approached Soun under his tree and posed a question that had been bothering me: What should a person do who finds himself, gun in hand, in the presence of a killer who is shooting innocent victims? Before I had finished the question, Soun raised a hand as if clutching a pistol, and said, “You shoot that killer, of course.”

I wanted clarification. “You aim for the hand holding the gun?”

“No,” Soun replied, “You might miss. Shoot to kill him.”

At that point, the monk who baked egg-less bread must have noticed my mouth hanging open. “But be careful,” he cautioned, “Make sure you’re not deluding yourself about the threat.”

When I reported this conversation to Monte, he was not surprised by the monk’s response. But I was surprised by my brother’s response when I idly commented that it would be nice to live contemplatively, as Soun Sunim did: “I’m too Armenian to do that,” Monte replied.

Where had he fished that one out? I wondered. I studied him through a wince, waiting for him to revert to an I-was-only-joking expression. But he didn’t. It then occurred to me that, despite Soun’s commonsensical counsel to shoot the killer, Monte might still have viewed the Buddhist precept against killing animals—in particular, Homo sapiens wielding axes--as an invitation to kneel at the slaughter bench. Monte was not about to live and die passively, in the manner that had enraged the rug merchant in Amsterdam, nor to put himself in a position to be plucked, crushed, or chopped like an onion, as the good Reverend Filian had described it. That, or something like it, must have been what he had meant when he’d said, “I’m too Armenian to do that.”

As soon as I had teased this conjecture out of the tangle of my confusion, though, another question sprang to mind: How could Monte have claimed to be too Armenian? Indeed, in what sense was this drawling third-generation scion of the San Joaquin Armenian at all?

In practice, Monte had already answered the question years earlier, by simply asserting his identity as a “diasporan Armenian,” an Armenian living outside of the historic Armenian homeland. His rationale struck him as obvious beyond debate: Whatever an individual may wish to make of himself, he must start with what he is. And what each individual is is largely a product of the past. Monte had hitchhiked thousands of miles with history books in his backpack: Having felt the weight of the past on his shoulder muscles, he concluded that twenty-five centuries on the Armenian Plateau outweighed one hundred years in the San Joaquin Valley. Accordingly, he did not describe himself with the standard ethnic designation “Armenian-American,” but instead used the term “American-Armenian.” It seemed trivial at the time, but in retrospect it’s clear that for him the substantive in his self-description had long been “Armenian.” His American nationality--the recent result of accident and genocide, both in the Old World and in the New--was just a dead-end detour, or even a “false identity,” as he put it more than once.

Monte would always have a hard time convincing ultra-nationalist Armenians that his “patriotism,” as he called it, had nothing to do with membership in a Chosen People. On the contrary. Before he was twenty, he had traveled enough roads and read enough books to have figured out that most people on Earth were poor, voiceless, and dispossessed in one way or another. Subservience and oppression were the normal state of affairs in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Ireland. “We’re a normal people,” Monte told the small audience that attended his series of lectures on Armenian history at Saint Vartan’s Church in Oakland during his last year at Berkeley. Those who were not normal were the rulers and beneficiaries of the wealthiest and most powerful empire ever, the United States of America. Thus, Monte placed his tribe, the Armenians, in the large camp of victims of Chosen People and divinely anointed nations, notably the American imperium. By embracing Armenian ethnicity, then, Monte was connecting himself to a global community of peoples that was much larger than the Yankee nationality of his birth and citizenship.

And yet, paradoxically, he had not met many people of any ethnic background who could trace their California pedigrees back to the 1880s, as he could. Our Okie neighbors certainly could not, nor could most of our Chicano friends. Aside from some Yokut and Monache Indian schoolmates and the occasional descendents of Californios and pioneers, we knew few others whose family roots grew as deep in Central California as ours did.

But when I reminded Monte of this, he just shrugged. By then, he had already fixed his gaze on the horizon to the east.

These were heady days for a brash and astute youth. The example of Vietnam was ever present in Monte’s thoughts, and it appeared as though the winds of freedom were filling red sails from Angola to Nicaragua. Reports of strikes, armed clashes, and mass demonstrations in Turkey, notably the huge May Day 1977 demonstration in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, seemed to confirm the growing strength of revolutionary forces in that country, too. Meanwhile, something was stirring just to the east of Armenia: Iranian students at Berkeley buzzed with the rumor that the Shah of Iran’s Peacock Throne was tottering. If the unthinkable were to happen--if in the coming years Shah Reza Pahlavi’s CIA-installed tyranny in Tehran were to fall--this would have an uncertain but in any case enormous impact on the entire region, including Turkey.

Change was in the air, so as a matter of provision, Monte began auditing a Turkish language class. The accent, declensions, and vocabulary came easy to him, and he learned to his surprise that much of the background noise at family get-togethers and at the Old Folks’ Home had in fact been Turkish, not Armenian. Not only was much of his parents’ culinary vocabulary Turkish—words for dishes such as koofteh, dolma, yalanchi, pilaf, kebab, and so on—but so was much of their non-culinary vocabulary, as well as expressions that Dad used often: Zkhom!Mashallah! Efedem! and expressions that translated as: “Eat it like it was your own,” and “to the middle of Hell.”

Monte met Turkish students through the language class, but he kept a reserved distance: Their internationalist rhetoric, he suspected, masked a leftish variety of Turkish nationalism, or worse. He could not forget the betrayals of the past—and in particular, the fact that the Young Turks who ordered the genocide in 1915 had come to power promising reform and claiming friendship with Armenians. Monte had more sympathy for the Kurds, who had been rebelling long before we had trekked through Anatolia from Mersifon seven years earlier. But he couldn’t ignore the fact that some Kurds, too, had helped massacre Armenians. Left to their own devices, he concluded, Turkish and Kurdish revolutionaries would never concede anything but bad-faith pledges to Armenians.

Monte’s mistrust of Turkish and Kurdish revolutionaries, together with the feeling that storm clouds were gathering over Iran and Turkey, instilled in him an increasingly urgent feeling that “time is not on our side,” as he put it more than once. It seemed to him and to many of us that Turkey was already teetering on the brink of the insurrection, and that “Sooner or later,” as he wrote, “there will be a socialist revolution in Turkey.” Indeed, Monte was desperately worried that the revolution would take place too soon, before Armenians could muster their own forces to back up their demands when the dust settled. He was not yet clear what those demands should be, but he was sure that there should be demands. In the coming years he would clarify those demands, and by 1987 he would write to friends from a French prison, lamenting that,

Every day that passes without work to build our vanguard organization makes it less likely that we will attain anything but our most minimal demands for a solution to the national question. And even these minimum demands are unlikely ever to be secured unless we redouble our organizational efforts in short order. We must regroup and mobilize now.

Because times seemed so desperate in 1977, Monte seized all the more eagerly on reports of attacks against Turkish officials, embassies, and airline offices in Europe by mysterious assailants calling themselves “The New Armenian Resistance,” “The Armenian Secret Army,” and “The Justice Commandos.” The newspapers described the attacks as terrorism, but Monte preferred the term armed propaganda. In half-whispered discussions with pacifist Armenians at Berkeley, he argued that Turkish diplomats were legitimate targets of such attacks. After all, as representatives of the Turkish government, those diplomats were direct beneficiaries of the Armenian genocide, even as they continued to deny that the genocide had ever taken place. Moreover, the regime they represented had slaughtered thousands of Kurds, destroyed their villages, criminalized their language and culture, and jailed and tortured thousands of dissidents, both Kurdish and Turkish. Those diplomats hadn’t been born into their offices: At some point, each one of them had made a decision to do what he was doing, and to stand for what he stood for. It was entirely fitting, then, that they should be held accountable for their decisions and actions. Indeed, it was an outrage that they had gotten away scott-free with so much evil for so long.

When the Armenian pacifists claimed that such attacks were pointless, Monte insisted that they served the very useful purpose of “waking up” the youth. And when the pacifists objected that such attacks would turn public opinion against Armenians, he replied in his emollient voice that the Turks never seemed to fret overly much about international condemnation. They hadn’t fretted much when they butchered Armenians and stole their land; nor when they slaughtered Kurds, or annexed Arab Iskandarun, or invaded northern Cyprus, or bullied Greece in the Aegean. They simply went ahead committing their crimes and getting away with them, one after another. So evidently, public opinion wasn’t worth very much: “We should just ignore public opinion and do what we’ve got to do,” Monte concluded.

Hearing this, one of the pacifists would frown and shake a finger: This is exactly what the Turks want us to do: They want to portray us as terrorists!

Who cares?!” Monte would reply. Even when Turks were hacking our forebears in their beds and chopping their heads off like carrots, they denounced their victims as terrorists. “No matter what we do, they’ll call us terrorists,” he said, “So why not act like terrorists?”

Unlike me, Monte never assumed that life was anything but “a complete mess,” as he put it. One could either grapple with the problems that life poses or try to ignore them. Either way, there was no guarantee of success.

In Fall 1977, a couple of Berkeley students, including Armen S., one of Monte’s friends, sent out mailers announcing their intention to reactivate the hitherto-dormant Armenian Students’ Association (ASA) on campus. A few days later, when thirty or so students arrived at the university’s Tan Oak Room where the first meeting was to take place, a scruffy youth in rubber sandals met them in the hallway and handed each a packet of explosives recipes photocopied from the Anarchist Cookbook. In the second issue of the ASA newsletter, contributor Judy Sanoian recalled the scene: “Who can forget what was, for most of us, our first glimpse of Monte, passing out xeroxed bomb literature at the first ASA meeting. You have to admit, it made an impression.”

What made an impression on Monte, however, was what he perceived to be the cretinism of his bewildered fellow students, many of whom would never bother to show up for the second ASA meeting. “Unbeliveable!” he exasperated, stressing the first syllable and shaking his head as if rousing himself from a nap. A dozen years later, however, in his autobiographical Self-Criticism, he was less surprised by their response: “Although I was very serious and frank during this period, looking back I can say that I was very inexperienced, impatient, and to a certain extent, adventurous.”

“Adventurous” was one of the kinder ways of describing the pamphleteer at the Tan Oak Room. “Impetuous” was another word his fellow students used to describe him, and I heard the phrase out of his gourd, too. Monte was not yet out of his teens, but he had already launched off headlong into rock-climbing, train hopping, and Vietnam in the last days of Saigon. Though barely an intermediate skier, he would point the tips of his skis straight down the steepest slopes at Tahoe. And on visits to Mexico he had been the first to swan dive head-first from cliffs into the Gulf of California. He had swum with sharks there and in the Sea of Japan, too, and had liked it. But now he was launching off headlong into something else, something murkier, deeper, and far more serious than anything so far.

Until that evening at the Tan Oak Room, Monte had never had a problem making friends and influencing people. In sixth grade, he had convinced the principal of Conyer Elementary School to create a new elected office, that of student body president, which he then proceeded to win by a landslide. Back then, however, bomb-making literature had not been part of his election campaign. In the Tan Oak Room, the pyrotechnical pedagogue failed to win a single position on the executive board of the Student Association, even though he nominated himself for one position after another. Finally, someone who felt sorry for the energetic if misdirected youth suggested that he be awarded the leftover title of Public Relations Officer and shunted away to a quiet corner where he could exercise himself writing letters to editors.

Within a matter of days, the Student Association would regret even this minimal gesture. On October 3, 1977 at 3:50 a.m., a blast blew the front door off the Brentwood residence of Stanford J. Shaw, a history professor at UCLA. The improvised pipe bomb shattered the door, blew a three-foot hole in the wall, broke windows, threw bricks and stucco into the front yard, and scattered books around the living room. Fortunately, no one was injured. “I guess I gave too many F’s last quarter, huh?” Shaw quipped to reporters, before canceling his classes and taking a leave of absence from the university. But low grades probably were not the reason for the blast: Shaw and his wife had recently published a two-volume History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, in which they described the wartime genocide of Armenians as a myth concocted by “ Entente propaganda mills and Armenian nationalists.”

FBI agents and police investigators snapped into action. They questioned dozens of Greeks and Armenians in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, tapped phones, read mail, infiltrated ASA meetings, and threatened non-citizens with deportation. Needless to say, Monte was a prime suspect in the bombing. His self-inflicted coup de grace, of course, was the open distribution of bomb-making instructions, but he had probably attracted police attention months earlier, due to his association with Cypriot, Iranian, and Palestinian activists at Berkeley.

Not long after the bombing, Monte further incriminated himself by writing a short review of Shaw’s History for the first issue of Hye Times, the ASA newsletter. “You can’t fully appreciate the distortions, slander, and outright lies until you read this monument of inadequate scholarship for yourself,” he wrote. Thus, after having handed out bomb recipes at a public meeting, Monte proceeded to publicize his displeasure with a person who had just been the target of a bombing. It would not have been easy for him to have implicated himself more thoroughly if he had set his mind to it!

FBI and LAPD Red Squad investigators knocked on the doors of dozens of Monte’s friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and placed others under heavy surveillance. Curiously, however, field agents never directly confronted their prime suspect about the bombing. This might have been a ploy, to lull Monte into a false sense of security, in the hope that he would further incriminate himself or lead them to others involved in the bombing. In any case, the investigators came up empty handed—and for good reason: As far as I know, Monte had no connection to the bombing in Brentwood.

Even as the police and FBI tried through intimidation and thinly veiled threats to isolate radicals like Monte, events conspired to anger and embolden his peers. In those days, one of the main concerns of the Student Association was an obscure “study of genocide” prepared by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Paragraph 30 of the study mentioned Armenians as the first victims of genocide in the Twentieth Century. Turkish authorities, however, had taken it upon themselves to demand that the reference be deleted from the final study. Many ASA members were at first bewildered and then infuriated, when “their” U.S. government joined Ankara in opposing Paragraph 30.

Monte, however, tutted and smiled an I-told-you-so smile. To him, the sure defeat of Paragraph 30 was just one more confirmation of a lesson that should have been learned a hundred years earlier. At the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War in 1878, Armenian Church patriarch Khrimian Hairik had gone to Berlin as a delegate to the peace negotiations. According to Khrimian’s account, the European negotiators, each clutching a metal ladle, had descended on a big tureen of stew. By contrast, his flock, the poor Armenians, came to Berlin with only a paper ladle, in the form of bad-faith pledges of protection by the Great Powers. The Great Powers gorged themselves on the stew, extracting real concessions from the defeated Ottomans. With their paper ladle, however, the Armenians got none of the stew and left Berlin hungry. As long as his compatriots refused to take up metal ladles, Khrimian concluded, they would never get their portion of the stew.

As one of Khrimian’s true acolytes, Monte began to reacquaint himself with “metal ladles.” After a ten-year hiatus from the rifle range at Camp Tulequoia, he and I joined half a dozen members of the UCLA Armenian Students’ Association at an abandoned firing range in the Angeles National Forest. After littering the place with shell casings, we then built a fire to cook shish kebab.

Monte had a few more fires to set, too. At a January 16, 1978 meeting of ASA executives, he proposed that they sponsor a small display of books, photographs, and cultural artifacts at U.C. Berkeley’s Doe Library. His fellow ASA members greeted the proposal “with moderate enthusiasm,” as Judy Sanoian recalled. They might have been relieved to have Monte undertake a more constructive if less dramatic approach to ethnic activism. As soon as the library accepted their proposal, Monte and ASA President Jack Zarkarian set about collecting material for the exhibit. When the display opened on March 17, it consisted of several cases filled with yellowing books, old photographs, and a few other borrowed artifacts relating mostly to handicrafts, architecture, and church history.

The display did not attract much attention until a Turkish student noticed it and alerted the Turkish Consul General in San Francisco, Mustafa Asula. The Consul promptly telephoned head librarian Richard Dougherty, and asked him to remove all material relating to the genocide. Passing through the lobby a couple of days later, Monte noticed that part of the display had disappeared, and that the emptied display case had been filled willy-nilly with items removed from other cases. “What the heck’s going on here?” he asked the library staff.

University spokesperson Ray Colvig defended Dougherty’s action, describing the display as “inflammatory.” Monte pointed out that library officials had reviewed and approved all the material in advance, including the items they had later removed. When it became clear that University officials would not replace the items in the display case, Zarkarian, Monte, and other ASA members set up a card table in front of Sproul Hall, with photographs and photocopies of the censored material.

This was not the first time Monte had locked horns with Consul Asula. Earlier that year, he had fired off a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, in response to an article by Asula that had appeared in the January 8, 1978 issue of the paper. In acerbic but not uncivil prose, Monte demolished the Consul’s imaginative claim that, “Turkey today enjoys excellent relations with all her neighbors and is on the way to promoting new levels of cooperation with them.” Since 1938, Monte pointed out, Turkey had annexed the region of Iskandarun from Syria, threatened Greece in the Aegean numerous times, invaded Cyprus, and continued to occupy the north of the island. The Consul, however, won the first round when the Chronicle and Examiner refused to publish Monte’s letter.

The display on the card table in front of Sproul Hall drew much attention from passers-by, and soon other campus groups joined the protest. Eventually, the Academic Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom agreed that “external political pressure” had been exerted on the library staff, and that such pressure constituted an infringement on academic freedom. A few days before the exhibit’s closing date, library officials replaced the confiscated display items. When the dust settled, Dougherty resigned as head librarian and Asula was transferred to Libya.

Some ASA members viewed the Doe Library controversy as a moral and public-relations battle of epic proportions. Monte, however, dismissed it as little more than a brief distraction from his thesis research and preparations to graduate. By mid-March, he had resigned as Public Relations Officer of the ASA, in order to concentrate on completing his graduation thesis. Another California native and fellow undergraduate, Raffi Hovannisian, assumed Monte’s former public relations duties.

Before leaving Berkeley, Monte made yet another memorable appearance, this time as a student delegate at a meeting of a committee that had come together to plan commemorative events for April 24, 1978, the sixty-third anniversary of the beginning of the Young Turks’ campaign to exterminate Armenians. In a published interview many years later, another committee member, Sarkis Levonian, recalled his first impressions of Monte: The jean-clad youth “was a relaxed person with disregard for material things, and appeared to be neglecting his clothing,” Levonian reported. When he spoke, however,

…he was incisive and deliberate. He would enter the discussion of an item, make his point, compact and definite, and then give a chance to others to speak. He himself did not speak a lot. He was heard not because his voice was shrill but because in his tone and bearing you could sense conviction, self-certainty, personal commitment, and an inner force focused and under guidance.

Levonian described a dramatic moment during that meeting:

The talk was about a march from the City Hall and Federal Building to downtown San Francisco, along the way to make public officials and citizens aware of the history of the genocide and of Armenian demands. Monte proposed that the marchers carry guns. He did this with his usual soft, flowing voice in a matter of fact way. He might have said let’s take a coffee break or print some fliers in the same detached and even tone.

Monte sat “with his feet up on the table, relaxed and self-content, provisioned and reconciled to whatever reaction would greet his suggestion.” However preposterous the proposal might have sounded, it was not unprecedented, as he well knew : His buddy Don Houston, a veteran Black Panther, had told him about their armed demonstration in Sacramento a few years earlier. “But, oh, how there was a pause after Monte made his suggestion,” Levonian recalled.

You could hear the dense silence. Someone broke it by asking if the guns would be loaded. I don’t remember who it was who said “No.” And then someone else said, “If they are not to be loaded, it does not make sense to carry them at all.” And that was the end of that. Monte was astute enough to realize that his idea did not have enough support in the group, and he did not pursue it.

But if he were so astute, then why did he submit a proposal that clearly had no chance of being accepted in the first place? Levonian guessed that he was trying “to get a measure of committee members, to ferret out sympathizers. To make some of us think, and rise to higher levels of commitment.” This may be correct. In any case, Levonian left the meeting with an impression of a young man “who would defend by all means his right to be who he was and to think and express himself the way he did and to hang on to what was his. But also that he would never shout, or resort to bombast or a barrage of specious arguments to turn others to his point of thinking.”

One or two of Monte’s fellow ASA members also discerned seriousness beneath his antics: “Some people may think he overdoes it a bit, but no one can question Monte’s commitment to what he’s doing,” Judy Sanoian wrote in the second issue of the ASA newsletter. Sanoian, however, had put it too kindly. I had noticed that more than one Business or Engineering major, newly arrived in the Land of Opportunity, had waved Monte off as either an irredeemable eccentric who would come to no good, or as a future entrepreneur who was passing through a phase of juvenile radicalism, before settling down to the supremely serious business of Business.

Monte, however, had no intention of hanging around long enough to fulfill their expectations. Barely twenty years old, he had completed his undergraduate coursework and his honors thesis in two and one-half years. Now he was ready to move to “a higher level of commitment,” either as an archaeologist or as a militant in an as-yet unspecified “armed struggle.”

For a while, it was not clear to me which path he would choose: Archaeology or armed struggle? What was clear, however, was that both paths required fieldwork. And as he indicated in a letter to his sweetheart ten years later, he was eager for that:

There are people who think they can understand a situation from afar. I’m not one of them. It is true that you can understand a lot of things by reading and listening to other people, and get an idea. But that’s not enough. To really be able to understand, you should have experience, you should live through it.

When the department of archaeology at Oxford University accepted him as a doctoral student, one might have thought that the question of archaeology or armed struggle had been resolved in favor archaeology. But this would have been too hasty a conclusion. As he explained to me at the time, archaeological fieldwork would be the perfect cover to reconnoiter in eastern Anatolia, to gain a detailed knowledge of the terrain, languages, history, and resources at hand, and in that way to prepare the ground for the armed struggle—whatever that would entail. I concluded, then, that Monte wanted to pursue both paths, archaeology and armed struggle, simultaneously, the former as a means to the latter, in the manner of that earlier Oxford student and enemy of Turkey, T.E. Lawrence.

One hundred objections immediately leapt to mind, of course, including doubts that the Republic of Turkey would ever permit the former Public Relations Officer of the Armenian Students Association at Berkeley to conduct research in Urartuan archaeology there. Such “details” notwithstanding, Monte had at least set his priorities. A dozen years later, he explained his reasoning:

For me, everything was so simple and logical that it was even mathematical: Diasporan Armenians live outside Armenia because the genocide took place, and they were obliged to leave the country. Today, they can't go back, because the Turkish government has a colonial, exploitative, chauvinist, and genuinely fascist nature. Therefore, our nation should carry out an armed struggle over there, in order to achieve any tangible rights. And every Armenian patriot, including me of course, should go and participate in that struggle.

“Yes,” he added, “it was that simple for me.”

Simple or not, what strikes me as remarkable about my brother’s account of how he set out on his path is that it consists entirely of calculations of what he ought to do. It is as if there were no doubt in his mind that, once he had determined what his trajectory should be, he could and would hew to it, no matter what. In this instance, however, it was considerably easier to determine what should be done than to do it. Especially since Monte, this California Quixote, this kid barely out of his teens, had concluded that the right course of action was to join non-existent battle ranks to fight one of the largest and most powerful armies on earth.

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