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My Identity, Part I
read in Macedonian


Clarence: You’re nobody. You have no identity.
George: What do you mean no identity? My name’s George Bailey!
Clarence: There is no George Bailey. You have no papers, no cards, no driver’s license…

The above exchange is from the classic American movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” from 1946 and staring American legend Jimmy Stewart.  In the film, Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, is the owner of a small bank in the fictional town of Bedford Falls.  He took it over from his father and it was George’s intention, after graduating from school, to leave the small town, see the world, and then do something big with his life.

Instead, as so often happens, life intervened.  One event led to another and the years passed by.  George got married, had kids, and became a part of the community.  The bank remained small, but it was a rock in the community; people relied on it.

On the other side of town lived Mr. Potter, the meanest, nastiest and richest man in town.  He owned a lot but not the small bank.  Through a series of events, the bank almost went bankrupt and George got to a point where he wished he had never been born; in fact, he was thinking of jumping off of a bridge into the cold, rushing water below.  And he prayed.

God answered his prayer and sent a guardian angel, Clarence, to take care of him.  And George’s prayer was answered – he then experienced what life was like in Bedford Falls, assuming he had never been born. The upshot of the film is that he found out what a rich life he had lived by seeing the world if he had not been born.

This is a long introduction to my point: In order to have an identity, we must all be born, first.  And since all individuals are born in a country (or, if over the air or on the sea, they are associated with some country) they are born with a couple of identities.

First, there is the male or female identity, determined long before birth.  Next, their parents give them a name (given and family name).  Then, by virtue of the fact that they are born in a country, the newborn takes on the identity of the country, which, generally speaking, is also the identity of the parents.

This brings me to the recent visit of UN Ambassador Nimetz.  According to media reports, he stated:  “Here is how I view the issue. Under the UN resolution, the name of the country used in the United Nations and in other contexts is in question. There does not exist a UN resolution on people’s identity.  People in this country have their own identity and they define it themselves. This is not about the people’s identity, but rather, about the country’s name.”

Herein lies the problem: identity comes from the name.  The two are interlinked.  It always has been, always will be.  I cannot think of a country where it does not work that way. 

In our film, A Name is a Name, Ivan from Nikola Karov High School in Skopje sums it up like this:  “Exactly the name Macedonia determines our Macedonian language, our nationality and everything else related to the identity. Without the name there is nothing we can fight for because the name is the basis and comes with everything else that is a distinction for the nation.”

Ambassador Nimetz is a fine man and a seasoned diplomat.  But like so many others, he either refuses to admit the obvious or is blind to the self-evident.  There is no other possible explanation. I believe that Ambassador Nimetz recognizes he is in an impossible situation.  And I believe that others in the EU and NATO also believe they are in an impossible situation.  Witness NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “We need Greece’s support in order to send an invitation to Skopje. That’s it. I understand that Greece is not willing to send such an invitation until a mutually acceptable name solution is found. We reached this decision in Bucharest in 2008 and it is still in force.” I trust that Rasmussen understands that what he is saying is foolish, useless and hopeless.

Albert Einstein once famously quipped that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  If so, this whole name game is insane. 

We need a fresh start.  The name and identity are inseparable.  If the powers that be in the EU, NATO and those few countries too foolish to recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name insist on believing that the name and the identity are two separate issues, then perhaps it is time to end these futile talks.  Press on with reforms, continue attracting foreign direct investments, stay the course assisting NATO, etc. but end the foolishness.  Enough is enough.  Membership in NATO and the EU is not end all be all that their leaders say it is.  And it is not worth trading in your identity to be admitted to clubs that have fewer and fewer values every day.

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Jason Miko
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