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“Esoteric Concepts of Identity”
read in Macedonian


Ambassador Reeker: “Look, I think the issue has remained – the name issue has been pretty much the same issue from the time it began. There’s always somebody saying that this is a new angle, this is something different, that broader concerns have changed the dynamic. It’s a pretty basic issue, and the two countries can sit down and resolve it. If you look at the issues that have faced the world, faced the region, including some of the economic challenges that you mentioned today, they can be overcome, and they have been overcome, with the dedication, with a focus on finding solutions that involve compromise – it’s not a bad word – that do not involve esoteric concepts of identity or anything else.”

An answer from Ambassador Philip Reeker at the Department of State in Washington, DC on October 19 in response to a question

“Esoteric concepts of identity?”  Whatever does Ambassador Reeker mean by this?

Let’s look at the dictionary definition of the word esoteric:  “requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group <esoteric terminology>; broadly: difficult to understand <esoteric subjects> of special, rare, or unusual interest <esoteric building materials>”

Identity is something that is broadly understood by all peoples and it is something that is held sacred by all peoples.  It is not restricted to a small group and it is not difficult to understand.  We Americans have our identity.  Our Greek friends have their identity.  And Macedonians have their identity too, but it is being denied by our Greek friends, not to mention a few others in Europe plus a number of unelected and therefore unaccountable officials in Brussels and Washington, D.C.

You as Macedonians know what your identity is, that it comes from who you are as a people, from the characteristics, values and traits that make you who you are.  It does not come from monuments – those are an outward sign of your history and culture much like the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. are outward signs of our history.  Your identity comes from the fact that you are a generous, loving, friendly and hospitable people who have often struggled to be recognized for who you are. Your identity is rooted in your history – like the identities of all people – and has developed over time, like the identities of all people.  To be told that your identity is “esoteric” is, frankly, an insult.

Look, Ambassador Reeker is a good man and, generally, a good diplomat.  He has done some wonderful things for Macedonia during his career.  But calling identity an esoteric concept is either a serious lapse in judgment or a new normal for the ambassador.  I’m beginning to fear that it might be the new normal line of response from the Department of State.  Consider what US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon told Al Jazeera in Dubrovnik this past July: “And I think once it [the name issue] was agreed people would stop obsessing over precisely what the formal name of the country was and they would get on with it as in so many other cases around the world.”

As I wrote on this issue shortly after Gordon made these remarks, by using the loaded word “obsessing,” Gordon is attempting to belittle the Macedonians who hold their name and identity sacred.  So here we have two examples in less than four months where US Department of State officials have used inappropriate words – either accidently or deliberately – to describe Macedonian identity.  We certainly know that both elected and unelected officials “obsess” over their titles and rank in life because to them, that gives them their identity as human beings.

Macedonians – and successive Macedonian governments – have been trying to solve this issue.  But Greece holds all the cards when it comes to international organizations and membership in them.  This is one reason why I often argue that membership in these groups is not really worth it anymore.  If the unelected members of the Department of State and others like them are unwilling to take a stand – if they continue to repeat the same old mantra that both countries must find a “mutually acceptable solution,”  then that might explain why they are trying to wear down the Macedonians on the issue of identity.

Identity is not an esoteric concept and, speaking as an American, I will continue “obsessing” about my identity – as long as it continues to be under attack from multiculturalists and the left.  Macedonians will as well.  But what I want – as an American whose country was built on concepts of truth and what is right – what I want as an American is for the unelected bureaucrats who work in the Department of State to take a stand for what is right, to show backbone and courage and to say loudly and clearly “Macedonia’s identity is sacrosanct and will remain.  Greece started this issue, Greece can and should end it by accepting Macedonia for what it is and the Macedonians for who they are.” For good measure I would argue that NATO simply accepts Macedonia as a member – break the rules and consequences be damned.  That would be the right thing to do.  Sadly, I don’t see America doing the right thing much anymore these days but hopefully that will change after November 6.

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Jason Miko
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