This is a topic I had decided I wanted to write about from the moment I started this blog. I knew it wouldn't be easy or necessarily pleasant to write about, but I did feel it needed to be said. Hence, in this first "blogatorial" of mine, I will be talking about who I believe the real enemies of the Albanian people are, and what can be done about them.
Who or what, then, is the "real" enemy (or enemies) of the Albanian community and it's friends and supporters? Contrary to popular belief, it is not some nebulous, amorphous entity called "The Serbs" or "The Greeks". I believe there are plenty of both Serbs and Greeks (though I'm not sure at this point I can honestly say in either case "a majority") who do not harbor National(Social)ist sentiments; who have no desire to dismember and annex Albania proper, who have no problem seeing Albanians as human beings no different from themselves, with a valid history and culture that should be respected. They could care less about "Kosovo and Metohija" or "Vorio Epirus". It is not relevant to them, nor is it a part of where they derive their ethnic identity from. They, like most of us, just want to get through their day, take care of their families, and be left unmolested. So to say "The Serbs" or "The Greeks" (or anyone else for that matter) are our enemy is a red herring, and if we do it, it makes us no better than the Serbian and/or Greek National(Social)ists when they demonise "The Albanians" (as they constantly do, of course).
No, I believe that we have two primary enemies. The first is Nationalism (or as I prefer to refer to it as, National(Social)ism). Now Nationalism is not Patriotism (though it could be said to be a perversion of it), and though the line between the two sentiments is often fine, it is there, and it is dangerous, in my opinion, to confuse the two. So what is nationalism? Well, to put it in somewhat colloquial, slightly oversimplified (and perhaps slightly vulgar) terms, if Patriotism is "My country is great!", then Nationalism is "My country is great, and yours sucks"! In other words, true patriotism need not rely on the denegration of any other people or state in order to find a source for national pride. Nationalism, at least by the way I define it, cannot help but demonise "the other" in order to gain at least a part of a sense of it's national pride. It is nearly always destructive towards that stated "other", and eventually is always destructive towards its own self.
Now as to Nationalism, I believe it can reasonably divided into two not-necessarily-mutually-exclusive types: Expansionist and Isolationist. The terms are fairly self-explanitory, but I will expand briefly upon them. Expansionist Nationalism (sometimes refered to as "Imperialism") seeks to expand (and/or in some cases regain if once held but later lost) the country in question's territory. Think Nazi Germany with it's "Liebensraum" policy, or Stalin's expansionism, or closer to home, the "Veljika Srbija" (Greater Serbia) or "Vorio Epirus" (Northern Epirus) policies of those supporting Serbian or Greek National(Social)ism. The nearly-always inevitable results of this form of Nationalism are well documented to anyone who knows the slightest bit of world history. And of course, when it is carried to it's "logical" conclusion, Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing are often the result, as again can be seen from even the most cursory study of history.
Isolationist Nationalism, on the other hand, while still demonising "the other", takes a "circle the wagons" mentality towards other peoples and other cultures, seeing isolation (often to a ridiculous degree) as being the only way to defend said people's culture and way of life from the "barbarians at the gates". Albania under Enver Hoxha, (or to a lesser degree Castro's Cuba) of course, comes to mind as a textbook example of this kind of Nationalism. (Of course, as I alluded to before, the two basic types of Nationalism, much as might seem otherwise, are not mutually exclusive, as can be witnessed by North Korea or Iran.) Naturally, we have all seen for ourselves the results of such a form or Nationalism in Albania, and continue to see them today with North Korea.
So what is to be done about Nationalism? How then can we fight it, if it indeed is one of our "real" enemies? Well, the first thing, I believe, is being aware in the first place that it is one of our real enemies. That is to say that Nationalism (in this case Serbian and Greek Nationalism, and to a lesser degree any remaining remnants of our own) is in reality the enemy we fight, and not a people, a race, or a country. To see it as otherwise I believe is both unrealistic, and it also brings us down to the level of our enemies, in this case those who espouse the party lines of Serbian and Greek Nationalism (and the naiscent "neo-byzantine" movement as well) The second, as I just alluded to, is not to fall prey to it ourselves. Fortunately, Nationalism from what I have seen is rarely a part of the Albanian consciousness. But still, the poison of "Xhaxhi Enver" did manage to reach far and wide, far beyond the borders of the then Peoples Socialist Republic of Albania, even affecting those who claimed to hate him more than words could describe. We must work to eliminate the last vestiges of that falsely elitist and isolationist sentiment wherever we may find it. Albania, and the Albanian community, must find factual reasons to build links to the rest of the world, not distorted excuses to keep maintaining a Frostian "wall" between it and them. The third and final way to combat Nationalism, especially of the type pertaining to our specific struggle in this case, i.e. the right of Albanian peoples in the Balkans to live in freedom and without molestation, is to constantly shine the light of truth on it. We must at all times and at all places be willing to act like Dorothy Gale's dog Toto in the childrens classic book and movie The Wizard of Oz, and bravely expose "The Man Behind The Curtain" (i.e. "The Real Truth") that the Nationalists want those they wish to sway to "pay no attention to". We must reveal it for the ugly blight on humanity that it is, a denegrator both of those who it seeks to destroy (or shun at the very least), but most of all, a denegrator of the society that falls prey to it's seductions.
Now, earlier I did mention in my opinion that we have a second enemy besides Nationalism to combat. So who is that "second enemy"? Well, to borrow a certain phrase from a certain long-gone but fondly remembered American comic strip, "We have met the enemy, and he is us!" Yes folks, that's right: We are. It is not an easy thing to say, but it is a necessary thing to say, at least in my humble opinion. Or rather I should probably say it is our foibles, common to all humans and not unique to Albanians or anyone else, that are.
It is our hubris in this matter, which has led us to assume that just because Serbia capitulated to NATO 8 years ago, that means that Kosova independence (and just as importantly international recognition and national security) is a "done deal".
It is our laziness in this matter, (which honestly is quite understandable-who in their right mind likes the idea that any fight might be an "eternal" one?), which has led us to put our guard down, and allowed those on the side of Serbian National(Social)ism to gain ground via unrelenting propaganda, ground we foolishly believed was lost to them forever, much like the Hare in the Aesop story lost his race by being lazy and over-confident, hence allowing the Tortoise to eventually overtake him.
Lastly, it is our all-too-human desire for a return to "business as usual", which has allowed us to neglect the good relations we engendered during the NATO crisis with the general communities around us, and with other ethnic communities. I can not speak for other communities of the Albanian diaspora (though I get the impression it is much the same in many of them), but I know that where I live, the community managed to gain the goodwill of both the general community and some other ethnic communities, most notably the Hispanic and Jewish communities. Yet we have done next to nothing, not even in the light of 9/11 and the rise of Islamophobia (many commentators and pundits now often tying in Islamic Fundamentalism and the Albanian people, as if the two had anything at all to do with each other, outside of a few nutjobs), to maintain that "goodwill".
So what can be done about this? Well, firstly, we need to start bearing in mind that wise saying of Yogi Berra that I quoted in my very first post to this blog: "It ain't over until it's over". We have to stop assuming that Kosova is a "done deal". That doesn't mean that we should become "Chicken Little", and assume that the slightest setback to the process of independence puts said independence in grave jeopardy, but we must start facing the reality: That until Kosova actually is independent, we must be on our guard, not only for developing situations in the Balkans, but for the agitprop being produced by Serbian and Greek National(Social)ists that attempts to endanger our chances of one day (hopefully soon) seeing "Kosova e lirë".
Second, we must realise that, as Jefferson said, "The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance". That means exactly what it says. We cannot be "lazy" when it comes to Anti-Albanian propaganda, whether it be on the 'net, on TV, on Radio, in newspapers-anywhere. While we must certainly be discriminating as to what is worth giving answer to, we must also be prepared to give answer, and give one that is firm, truthful, and honest, to the "Haters" and their lies. We cannot hide any longer behind "Oh, he/she's only a Serb/Serbophile-nobody cares what he/she has to say." The honest evidence is that is not the case. And who can doubt that our hubris and laziness in hiding behind excuses like the aforementioned have at least in some small way helped our enemy to get their "message" across unhindered?
Third and lastly, we need to increase the visibility of the Albanian diaspora in the communities it exists in, and also build links with other ethnic communities, especially those who we have certain things in common with, such as cultural influences, values, experiences, etc. We should be forming Albanian-American societies in any communities where there are enough people to sustain them. And even if there aren't enough people to sustain such (and even if there are), we can still take part in things like the multi-cultural festivals many communities hold. We should also try to do public festivals as many other ethnic communities do, as well. These can go a long way to "demystifying" the Albanian people and their culture to the general American community, as well as building goodwill. Lastly, we should be extending the hand of friendship to other ethnic communities, rather than shunning and belitlling them.
Well, that's it. That's my thoughts on the subject of who our "real" enemies are. You may agree. You may disagree. You may be mad as hell with me for saying them out loud, in this public forum (though as the old saying goes, "If I offended you, maybe you needed to be offended"). If so, all I can say is "I am sorry-but I do not apologise". Because I would not have said them if I did not truly believe them, or if I did not truly think it important that they be said in the first place. Hopefully, they will engender something that I feel is long overdue in this community: Constructive discussion about issues in the Albanian community, both present and future, and how best to deal with them.