My Yugoslavian Brother

I had a friend once, more of an acquaintance, who grew up in what was Yugoslavia. One day, this was in the ‘eighties, we were lolling about, and I asked him if he was Serbian or Bosnian? Good gawd. He was so instantaneously incensed that he couldn’t talk. He spit nonsensical words, and I truly thought he might hit me. He fled the room, and I sat completely bewildered at what had just happened.

It turned out that he was Serbian. He hated Bosnians. And I don’t mean the garden-variety hatred. I mean the kind of spur in your spleen that contaminates every thought and action you have. In the one conversation we had about my question to him – I never dared broach the subject again – he said that his Grandfather hated Bosnians, his Dad hated them, and that, dammit, he hated them too. As far as he was concerned? These aren’t even human beings. He would feel worse about kicking a dog. So here I am, in a nuclear plant, vetted through a dozen layers of security probes and psychological tests, and this guy tells me with pride and with fire that, if he could get away with it, he would kill any fucking Bosnian that he could. I shake my head, flabbergasted.

I haven’t a clue what it’s like to grow up with this kind of hatred poured into your soul every day. Neighbor kids and I got into fights when I was a kid, but that was just entertainment and figuring out the pecking order. But the sense that those people are so different from you that they have no value as human beings is an infection that touches everything. It’s the Midas touch in reverse.

Hatred Spewing Candidates

You might know where this is going. I’ve been amazed all over again by the abject hatred spewed by presidential candidates, by people who I have admired, and by many of my friends. I’ve successfully filtered most of the spewing from social media sites that I follow, and life is a brighter again. I haven’t any hope that this election will change anything. Change is a decades-old rolling cultural juggernaut, and smart pols hop on board before they are run over. I’m convinced that this is the reason that President Obama ‘rethought’ his position on gay marriage.

So relax. Be nice to your friends. Play with your children today. Recognize that political parties, politicians, and the media all exist to sell you something. You don’t have to buy


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