Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Last of the Yugoslavs

And all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty back together again.

I spent my days in the Balkans talking and listening of what was lost: Yugoslavia. And I heard a general grumbled consensus: nostalgia. What we had was better. And I heard it from Bosnians, from Serbs and from Croats.

We had everything: the mountains; the long coast; the industry; the openness in comparison; the standard of living. We were strong as whole, and better equipped to stand against Germany, Russia and the United States; we are small countries now, with small borders and small interests. We had a great country, and we lost it over petty divisions and differences.

Šteta (pity).

Yugoslavia was greater as a whole than the division of it parts.

Speaking to Bosnians, Serbs and Croats, I still found a sense of shock all these years later at what befell Yugoslavia. As if no one really could believe it could happen, and are still numb that it did.

It was Freud who warned against the narcissism of minor differences, and never in the Balkans was that more true. This was not an ethnic conflict, they were the same Slavic ethnicity, speaking practically the same language.

I may be the last of the Yugoslavs. Fitting, as I am the last of the partisans of the Ottomans and of the Hapsburgs. I am a Levantine, I love the the multi-ethnic states and empires as I have come to abhor petty, narrow nationalism.

I have learned a lot on this short trip, and I will have more to learn as I spend longer in the region.

I have a profound sadness for the ways things fell apart.

I have a profound respect for the strength of those who endured the miseries that befell what was Yugoslavia.

And on a final note, I have a greater respect for one President Abraham Lincoln, because there was no Lincoln in the Balkans.

No one would fight for the unity of a country because they knew that a house divided cannot stand; no one who would make such sacrifices beyond their own narrow interests.

Lincoln's resolve and determination to keep the United States of America whole, no matter the cost in blood and treasure means even more to me when I visit lands that could not see so far forward.

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