The “people of North Macedonia”
Or, a new way to avoid saying “Macedonians”
On Tuesday, November 13, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mark Green, tweeted several tweets about his visit to Macedonia. In one, he tweeted “Today, I visited South East European University (SEEU) in Tetovo, #NorthMacedonia. Higher education opportunities for North Macedonians is important in advancing the economic empowerment of the country as a whole.” I tweeted back that, perhaps, it is now official United States’ policy to refer to Macedonians as “North Macedonians” (something that happens every day now as you can read in my list here) and tagged the U.S. Ambassador and the U.S. Embassy. Several hours later his tweet was deleted and a new tweet appeared:
“Today, I visited South East European University (SEEU) in Tetovo, #NorthMacedonia. Higher education opportunities for the people of North Macedonia is important in advancing the economic empowerment of the country as a whole.”
Now, I could have been polite and merely pointed out what was obviously a mistake on his part (or the team posting his tweets): U.S. policy actually does recognize Macedonians, not North Macedonians, it’s just that they all refuse to use that word, as if it were Ebola. But I am tired of being polite as it doesn’t appear to matter one whit. The U.S. foreign policy apparatus is made up, almost entirely, of transnational progressive elites who believe in a borderless world (most of them would, in private, admit to being “citizens of the world”), a world run by technical bureaucrats like them where they have much more in common with their counterparts in Berlin, Brussels, and Paris, than they do with Americans from Berlin, North Dakota, Brussels, Wisconsin, or Paris, Tennessee. They are extremely self-centered, self-important, and self-congratulating.
But back to Green’s second tweet about the “people of North Macedonia” as this is an increasing trend, especially among those transnational progressive elites in the West. In a previous tweet earlier in the day he called out the “youth of North Macedonia” while Paul McCarthy, the Europe Regional Director for the International Republican Institute retweeted a U.S. Embassy tweet and wrote “Congratulations to the people of #NorthMacedonia!” In her credentialing ceremony with Macedonia’s president earlier this year, U.S. Ambassador Kate Byrnes referred to “the American people” and “the people of North Macedonia” in the same statement. I won’t bore you with more examples of this because they are everywhere, and not just in tweets — news articles, opinion pieces, statements, speeches, etc.
(As an aside, USAID’s logo includes the tag line “From the American People” but perhaps it should be changed to “From the people of America which includes a lot of people who don’t actually feel or believe they are Americans.”)
Now, compare that with, oh, let’s take next-door Albania for example. Here’s a recent article by the eminent Balkan scholar and author Tim Judah for Balkan Insight who writes “Albanians are ageing,” “Albanian women,” “the median age of Albanians is rising,” and “Kosovo Albanians,” and more. Turning back to bureaucrats, the U.S. Ambassador to Albania, Donald Lu, in this interview, talks about the many achievements of Albania being “Albanian,” the “Albanian state,” “Albanian democracy,” and Albanians in general. No problem with that adjective there.
(As yet another aside, I should point out that Balkan Insight and Macedonian “journalist” Sinisa Jakov Marusic, often writes about the “North Macedonian” government, agricultural produce, representatives, the outgoing prime minister, etc.)
It’s really very simple to see what is going on here I guarantee you that the people of any other country are referred to by their name, the name they call themselves, whether they are Albanians, Serbians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Estonians, Russians, Canadians, etc. And the foreign diplomats who inhabit these countries, refer to the people as such. But not, apparently, in Macedonia.
So the question then becomes: why this allergy to talking about Macedonians? Why not just say “education opportunities for the Macedonians” or “Macedonian youth” or “Congratulations to the Macedonians”? We all know the answers: First, because Macedonia has minorities living in it, the U.S. officials, and others who write and say “people of…” all the time don’t want to offend the minorities. Second, because they don’t want to offend the Greeks. Third, because they don’t want to offend the Bulgarians.
And do you know who is ultimately offended by these linguistic gymnastics? The Macedonians. But apparently, the sensitivities of the Macedonians are not important. So they will be offended, and often, and especially by the very people, foreigners, who have been invited into Macedonia.
Some might dismiss these comments as just some complaint over words. But it is not. This is dangerous.
This is dangerous because in attempting to belittle or deliberately weaken Macedonian identity (which is what this does or attempts to do, knowingly or not) these transnational progressive elites invite others to quite literally take over the country which would ultimately involve armed conflict. In weakening Macedonian identity it sends a signal to others, including Albanians with itchy trigger fingers and deluded Bulgarians, who believe they, and they alone, “own” the very land of Macedonia. Think I’m being overly dramatic? Think again.
None of this is in the interests of the U.S., EU, or NATO.
The antidote to this is strengthening Macedonian identity, which can be done internally and by the Macedonian diaspora and their friends, and by affirming Macedonian identity, which can be helped by the aforementioned transnational progressive elites.
Unless they have a different agenda.