Monday, June 16, 2008

Obama to Bring Macedonians and Greeks Together During Presidency?

Dear Barack Obama,

My friends, most of whom enthusiastically support your candidacy, have been urging me for some time now to write to you and your campaign team. I have watched your rise in national politics with growing respect. However, unlike my friends, who are convinced that you are always on the “side of the angels”, I am wrestling with a bit of evidence to the contrary.

You see, I am an American of Macedonian heritage, an ethnicity that your close and devoted Greek American friends have been working to eradicate from the face of the earth. They first enlisted your support in this effort a year ago, when you co-sponsored Senate Resolution 300. That resolution urges “FYROM” and “Skopje”, a southeast European nation-state that most of the world, including the US government, refers to as the Republic of Macedonia, to cease its “irredentist nationalism” and negotiate a new name for itself that is acceptable to its Greek neighbors.

My friends, your enthusiastic supporters, keep insisting to me that you are too intelligent and too decent a man to knowingly co-sponsor a pandering, racist resolution on behalf of a foreign state and its people. They keep telling me that I need to send you factual information that will allow you to take a more informed position on the long-standing dispute between the two Balkan peoples.

I resisted doing this for a number of months, because I wasn’t convinced that you would be our Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, and as a member of a marginal constituency of the American body politic, Macedonian-Americans, I thought that you had much more important people to attend to during this hectic campaign season. I also thought that the case for the existence of the Macedonian people was so easy to make that I couldn’t see how you might have missed it in the first place.

As the campaign for the presidency has heated up though, and your opponents have dredged up every speck of potential dirt they could find to try and soil your good reputation, it has revealed a side of you that I can only admire and respect. You have not answered the mud thrown by your opponents by flinging a similar kind of mud back at them. In the case of the comments of your Revered Wright, you made it quite clear that you are capable of condemning individual actions of the man as they become known to you, while still retaining a love, honor and respect from years of good and honorable association. That stand has reassured me that you have a capacity to acknowledge our mutual human frailty and face it in yourself and those around you, while at the same time responding to it in a measured way that allows us all to learn and grow from the experience.

That is why I am writing today to inform you that your Greek American friends have inappropriately engaged you in a campaign their people have been waging for a hundred years to advance the Greek people at the expense of a smaller and weaker neighboring Macedonian people. A decisive moment in the history of their relations occurred in 1912 when the Greek army occupied the southern half of the Turkish province of Macedonia as part of a successful Balkan War against the Ottoman Empire. In order to absorb the conquered territory into the Greek state, Greek governments have, for nearly a century now, been waging a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing, to eradicate the people and to erase all traces of the history of the old, settled, indigenous Macedonian people that they found there. That people, while drastically reduced in number over the years, still exists in northern Greece today, and they still identify with the language, culture and society of the non-Greek Macedonian people who live in the Republic of Macedonia just over the border to the north.

The sad truth of the matter is that the dispute between Macedonians and Greeks has parallels in on-going disputes elsewhere in the world today between such peoples as the Tibetans and the Chinese or the Armenians and the Turks. The militarily victorious, stronger peoples in each case still deny historical evidence of wrongs perpetrated against the smaller and weaker people in their respective conflicts.

I most recently presented the historical evidence of Greek violation of the human and civil rights of the Macedonian people in a paper I presented at an academic conference held at Portland State University on April 12, 2008. That paper, entitled “Dimensions of the Macedonian– Greek Name Dispute”, even mentions your co-sponsorship of Senate Resolution 300 as a recent element in the dispute. You can access that paper at the website of the 14th Annual Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies Conference of the Ellison Center at the University of Washington,

I look forward to the day when you, as president of the United States, bring Macedonians and Greeks together to advance the cause of mutual understanding and social justice in a world that never seems to have enough of those precious commodities.

Sincerely, Dr. Michael Seraphinoff, Ph.D. Slavic Studies

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