National suicide is a choice. So is continued existence, even flourishing — that too, is a choice.

Choices…

National suicide is a choice. So is continued existence, even flourishing — that too, is a choice. Whether or not Macedonia and the Macedonians continue to exist is a choice, the choice of Macedonians today. The reality that was finally achieved on September 8, 1991 — the reality of a homeland for the Macedonian people after centuries of struggle — the reality and that homeland is at risk and is in jeopardy today. Nothing guarantees its continued existence, except the Macedonian people. Both future generations yet to be born, and past generations who now rest peacefully, the dead who fought and struggled, in various ways, for an independent Macedonia — both of these peoples — their future lives (those yet to be born) and their past successes and achievements (those who have gone before us) now wait for the decision of the current generation of Macedonians. What choice will this generation make?

Do you believe that Macedonia and the Macedonians will simply go on, continuing to exist without any heavy lifting, without any struggle, without any hard work? Do you think that Macedonia and the Macedonians will continue to exist if you sit by and do nothing and simply accept fate as it is handed down to you? Do you believe that this place called Macedonia and the people called Macedonians just simply exist without a continued fight? It is a pity if you think and believe that.

The continued existence of Macedonia and the Macedonians is a choice. And not just “existence” as if that was merely enough. But an opportunity to flourish! As I have written many times in the past — and will undoubtedly continue to write many times into the future — too many Macedonians simply shrug their shoulders, heave a heavy sigh, and say, “Oh well, we will survive.” Bloody hell, wake up! You must and you can do more than simply survive! You can succeed and flourish — but it is a choice, and it is your choice.

Just over 40 years ago (June 8, 1976) the famous Russian (!) dissident and Orthodox Believer Aleksandar Solzhenitsyn delivered a commencement address at Harvard University titled “A World Split Apart.” The public, the press, the pundits, and many others expected him to warn the students about the USSR and communism as he had done many times before. But in his one hour address he did something else — he warned the public, the press, the pundits and many others of the danger lurking in their own communities — the danger of decline and the danger of losing the will to defend the freedoms they, and previous generations, had fought for and won. Solzhenitsyn warned that “The reigning ideology, that prosperity and the accumulation of material riches are to be valued above all else, is leading to a weakening of character in the West, and also to a massive decline in courage and the will to defend itself….” (For this courageous speech, Solzhenitsyn was labeled a “fanatic,” “Orthodox mystic,” “fierce dogmatic,” and “conservative radical” by America’s elitist press.)

Macedonians have been hearing from their own government, from Western ambassadors in Macedonia, from think-thinks, civil society, academia, and the media (in and out of Macedonia) that “there is no alternative” and that any collapse of the so-called “name talks” “would have security consequences as well as economic and political ones,” (this last from Macedonian deputy PM Bujar Osmani). Setting aside his implicit threats about “security consequences” (perhaps signaling to Ali Ahmeti?), a dominant theme coming from all of the above-mentioned groups threatening that “there is no alternative” is that Macedonia must change its name, identity, and Constitution for the purposes of….mere money. That is their bottom line — “prosperity and the accumulation of material riches….valued above all else.” And yet, as we have seen time and again, there’s no guarantee that being in the EU and NATO will bring any of this and there are plenty of examples of countries that are out of the EU and NATO and doing just fine. Because, as it turns out, there are other alternatives to these organizations and pursuing these other alternatives, while retaining your name, identity, Constitution, and dignity, is a better path to follow. As American author Jonah Goldberg writes, “Capitalism cannot provide meaning, spirituality or a sense of belonging. These things are upstream of capitalism” and as a part of being human, “we want more than what mere capitalism can provide. We want meaning.” We all want to be a part of something larger. In Macedonia, and as Macedonians, you have that.

I’m now going into year 23 in and with Macedonia. I’ve seen a lot of changes take place in Macedonia over those years, some good, some bad. I’ve been given insight into the culture of Macedonia and if there were just one or two things I could tell you about my observations it would be this: be grateful and remember. A key element (perhaps “the” key element) in keeping what you have is gratitude and it is impossible to be grateful without remembering. While it is human nature to complain about things, it takes an act of deliberately remembering to be grateful. When God told the Israelites to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” He was giving them an active command — “remember” is a present-tense word. It’s easy — and often seductive — to look at the world around you and say “Yes, the EU and NATO are the answers to all of our problems as they will usher Macedonia into the promised land of material riches and economic prosperity,” but it’s also not necessarily true. And at what price does that come? When you are grateful for what you have and actively remember all those who have gone before you to create what you have today — the Republic of Macedonia and a Macedonian identity and consciousness — it should cause you, me, and everyone to pause, reflect, and consider what is being asked of you now.

But it is your choice.