Serbian American Voices Must Be Heard!

Three moments of the past few weeks illustrate the true nature of the Serbian character.

One: A peaceful protest in Zvecan – in the north of occupied Kosovo-Metohija – got attacked by Albanian police and NATO troops sent to protect them. Instead of running away, or crying to the media that they were victims, the Serbs fought back. The photo of the “Zvecan Avenger,” a man using the NATO shocktroopers’ own baton to beat them back and protect his comrades on the ground, has already become iconic.

Two: Novak Djokovic wins his 23rd Grand Slam in Paris, regaining the world #1 title. Even though this qualified him to be the greatest tennis player ever, by the West’s own standards, within days snide journalists were already making up rationalizations why he really wasn’t. But when Novak was asked if the boos of the crowd bothered him, he just smiled. “I don’t mind, I’ll just keep winning.”

Three: Nikola Jokic leads the Denver Nuggets to the NBA ring, and gets recognized as MVP. The gentle giant from Sombor has overcome widespread skepticism since he was drafted, and now many of his teammates are doing the Serbian triple-kiss and dancing to folk songs. But all he had eyes for that evening were his baby daughter — and his wife, whom the Croats made a refugee at just seven months, in 1995.

What does this trinity have in common? Strength. Honor. Dignity. Integrity. Principles. They are not ashamed of who they are. They aren’t willing to compromise it in order to be liked or accepted by people who would never like or accept them anyway. In a world filled with fakes, they are authentic.

That is why so many around the world – not just Serbs – love Djokovic and Jokic. That is why even the NATO riot troops respect the man with the baton who fought back, far more than the cowardly weasel they were “protecting.”

Two Serbs for History - Novak Djokovic and Nikola Jokic

One major lesson from those three moments is that being true to oneself and standing by one’s principles – no matter the price – is the path to victory. Ask Djokovic. He was deported from Australia for completely bogus reasons, and effectively barred from competing in the US, because he believed in freedom. He was the absolute favorite to win both tournaments. But would having 25 Grand Slams notched on his racquet be worth the price of his soul? Like a true Serb, he decided it would not.

Djokovic’s courage of his convictions is in stark contrast with people who have chosen to compromise. Some a little, others a lot. The latter have turned into “accidental Serbs”, who would much rather be anything else. They’re the ones who howl the loudest against any Djokovic, Jokic or the Zvecan avenger, as uncomfortable reminders of what they’ve forsaken. Their loud but impotent rage reflects frustration with those who did not abandon their heritage for a fistful of grants.

So be it. There’s a great Serbian saying, “who’s not here, we can do without.” If they see the error of their ways and repent, they will no doubt be welcomed back into the fold. We’re a generous and tolerant people, after all. Perhaps too much, sometimes.

It was once widely understood that standing in defiance of lies and tyranny was a chief characteristic of a Serb. The trio mentioned above is a reminder this is still true, even if a lot of people seem to have forgotten.

One of the biggest lies the Serbs were sold after the ‘Yellow Revolution’ of October 5 was that “to live like all normal people” one must become something else. They were repeatedly taught that standing up for themselves was unacceptable aggression and that only submission was the path to peace and prosperity. Was it? Of course not. Weakness and appeasement only invited aggression and humiliation.

Many of the people who aspired to lead the Serbs over the past several decades have adopted the mental framework of our enemies. Some out of malice, others out of opportunism. While it may have kept them in power for a while, it never delivered the results they promised. Because it couldn’t. One can’t build a strong house on a foundation of lies. And to keep trying would fit that proverbial definition of insanity.

One malicious frame sees the Serbs as donkeys, to be commanded with “carrots and sticks” by their handlers. Another, well-intended but likewise erroneous, believes they are a flock of sheep who just need a better shepherd.

Yet it should be obvious, not just from those three examples above but from our entire history, oral and (properly) written, that we’re neither donkeys nor sheep. If anything, we are wolves. If you mean to lead the Serbs, you must do so not as a shepherd of a flock, but as the alpha of a pack (or maybe a PAC?).

Be a Jokic. Be a Djokovic. Be the Zvecan Avenger. Then watch how those who would do us harm back away, the moment we show our teeth.

Author: Nebojsa Malic