Mackenzie Rollins | Weblog


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m: you watch as the flame ignites the tip. it glows. the hiss creeps into your eardrums. time stops as he inhales. you sense the relief he feels following the first desperate drag. he pauses, savoring this moment with his lifelong companion. you feel pursued by the foward, billowing cloud. a nebula of infection, filth, and pain.

every issue here boils down to one thing: nationalism. every political, social, educational, religious, economic… and the list goes on. its a question of which group you belong: serb. croat. bosniak. this was the topic of conversation at coffee this morning.i was joined by the regional director of world vision and a member of the united nations refugee agency. world vision is one of the largest ngo’s in existence, globally. sue is regional director. an expert on this area. she’s held her position for 7 years and works extensively as a mediator between the bosnian government and the people. masaki, on the other hand, works with the u.n. and focuses specifically on roma (gypsy) refugees seeking asylum from kosovo.

this made for interesting conversation. two balkan encyclopedias and me.

the common thread throughout conversation, nationalism. three groups. three presidents, in rotation. three agendas. president # 1 sets his agenda, only to be replaced by # 2 at the time of idea implementation. number 2 does the same, only to be replaced at the perfect time by president number 3. result? stagnation of action at the highest level of government.

but lets take it down to a lower level. did you know that schools are divided ethnically? curriculum varies depending on which ethnic column you fill. schools have two, sometimes three, principals. two or three sets of curriculum. thus, kids today learn to point the finger, not by choice, but because they are taught what is and isn’t true. of course, the truth depends on which room you’re sitting. with this trend, they’ll be running the country twenty years from now just like their fathers, pointing the finger.

sue thinks the only way peace will come is in the assemblance of a functional government by external hands. she’s not convinced this will ever happen, and thinks bosnia may always function in this “indefinite ceasefire,” as she called it. not necessarily in a state of war, but struggling to operate because of disunity.

masaki, on the other hand, deals with the disunity at the edges of the country, with the refugees. roma’s are marginalized everywhere. they are the outcast. the leapers, if you will. kosovo doesn’t want them for many reasons, one being that they don’t contribute to economic gain. the bosnian government doesn’t want them because they’re up to their ears in ethnic issues. bosnia is trying to enhance its image for the possibility of entrance into the eu, as is kosovo, and roma’s do anything but enhance.

these are mere shreds of the conversation. the depth at which the nationalist problem reaches is something i’m currently trying to swallow. being american, i’m used to asking where people are from, hoping the answer includes a different state name. if your response included a different culture or country altogehter, bonus points in my book. my response to the question of origin: “why yes, i’m from texas. ha, yeah, we have some horses, but no, didn’t ride them to school.” i love texas. i also love wyoming, new mexico, washington… but origin is not a light question here. and no answer brings with it bonus points.

they like americans. fingers aren’t being pointed at me, and for that, i’m grateful. but grasping this delicate issue without directly experiencing the accusatory finger is quite complicated. its like trying to understand the far-reaching effects of smoking on someone elses lungs. yes, its possible to observe the situation clearly. to feel the heat, taste the thick tar, to be surrounded by its penetrating odor. but your lungs aren’t receiving the blow. your body isn’t experiencing the cravings, or the ensuing relief. yes, you can study about it and go to bodyworlds to see a smoker’s lung. but somehow, you still grapple with understanding the effects. its remains his experience, not yours.

for now, i’ll keep wrestling with all of this. i’ll continue to engage the smokers, and those who know the smokers well, like sue and misaki. if you have insight, i’d love to listen.


Written by Mackenzie Rollins

July 29, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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