If the clothes make the man does the flag make the country?

February 21, 2008 at 9:37 am (Politics thoughts)

February 17th 2008 the “Nation” of Kosova was born.

As the sound of fireworks and celebratory gunfire filled the air the ethnic Albanians who inhabit a small piece of land wedged between between Serbia and Albania and the Republic of Macedonia declared themselves independent and raised up their new flag. It had neither the red and black of their southern neighbor, nor the red, white and blue of their northern neighbor nor the scarlet and yellow of their eastern neighbor. Their flag is sea blue with a golden depiction of their proclaimed territory in the middle and 6 white stars above it.

Some of the meaning of this emblem is crystal clear: The gold area, which to the uninformed might look like nothing more than a coffee spill, is actually an undeniable proclamation to the world that these are the borders that define the country. The gold represents 10,887 Square Kilometers (Roughly the size of San Diego county) and 2.2 million people who live in this Balkan region. The gold shows that Kosovo believes itself to be next to, but not a part of, Serbia and Montenegro, The Republic of Macedonia and Albania. The gold shows that they have borders and they consider these borders to be the limitations of where other nations rule stops and their rule begins. They live in the gold, they own the gold, they are the gold.

And then there are the stars. 6 of them, none larger than the other creating an arch above the gold map. They say that the stars are meant to symbolize Kosovo’s six major ethnic groups: Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Gorani, Roma (including Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians), and Bosniaks.

The idea for the flag came about from a competition that received thousands of entries. The goal was to create a flag in the most politically correct and the most politically strategic way possible. Do the most to offend the least; but do the most to be accepted into the international community, specifically the European Union.

And so the flag was unfurled and more than 2 million ethnic Albanians snickered under their breath as they began to wave their old red and black Albanian flags triumphantly in the air. Meanwhile the ethnic Serbs living in the northern part of Kosovo began to clean their weapons and stockpile their explosives.

Does a flag make a nation? Does a declaration of independence make you independent? 232 years ago the United States of America was born. The Netherlands, Morocco and the then nation state of Dubrovnik were amongst the first to recognize us as our own country. Then it was neither PC or PS for us to make such a declaration. It was dangerous, foolish and risky. But it was necessary.

Now what is it? How necessary is national autonomy? How important is independent rule? Why does it even matter that Kosovo wants to be independent?

From the point of view oa a young American where borders are eroding and cultures are fading and values are devaluing I find it increasingly difficult to have any semblance of nationalism.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I’m just as likely to to see a foreign flag being displayed on a car bumper sticker or a front yard flag pole as I am to see a US flag.

Is this a sign of multi-cultural tolerance or of American ignorance?

I wonder what percentage of people I talk to today would be able to tell me the significance of June 14th? I wonder how many even know the true significance of July 4th?

Barack Obama is on record as having stopped wearing a flag pin in protest of the Iraq war.

“You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin,” Obama said. “Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest.

“Instead,” he said, “I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”

Back to the question, does the flag make a country?  Or does it require international recognition? All over the world countries are lining up to draw their own lines in the proverbial sand. At the time of writing there are about 20 for and about 20 against Kosovo’s independence.

Of course nobody is saying anything about the “country” of Sealand and it’s claims of autonomy.  For 40 years no one has even cared.

I wonder if people will care about Kosovo in 40 years? I wonder if people will care about the USA in 40 years? At the rate we are presently headed and with the anti-patriot primed to become President I wouldn’t be at all surprised if on my 68th birthday I am a resident of an “autonomous” region known as the Republic of Independent Northern Baja Socialist Society.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Would you?



  1. danielbalc said,

    The biggest problem that I have with Kosovo being recognized as their own nation is that they didn’t actually fight for it. They “won” because the US fought for them. They had an old claim to the land and they had a large percentage of the ethnic population, but they didn’t fight to gain it. NATO forces fought for them.

    Perhaps the UN feels like this is a type of reciprocal action for the establishment of Israel in 1948? Maybe they feel like now that they have given a country to Muslims like they gave a country to Jews then everything should be equal?

    I don’t know. It’s complicated. It’s a strange situation.

    The most vehemently anti-Israel state in the world has been Iran and they have yet to comment on the Kosovar’s claim for Independence. I wonder if that’s because it is a catch 22 for them. If they recognize then they give credence to Israel, if they fail to recognize then they deny a muslim state and make it more difficult for other muslim “state’s” to attain their independence (hello Chechnya). Of course Kosovo is a secular state with muslim heritage and far from Sharia law so that might not be a problem for the midget.

  2. out of thin air (aka former ffl champ) said,

  3. danielbalc said,

    Of course they’re not happy. Their country went from 88,361 Sq Kilometers to 77,474. Their population dropped 2.2. million. They lose tons of natural resources not to mention the feeling of international humiliation that must come along with this.

    Imagine what you would want to do if all the Hispanics in McAllen Texas (nearly 90% of the population) decided they didn’t want to be a part of America anymore. They wanted their independence. They declared themselves their own Nation with their own constitution, laws, monetary system and flag.

    We’d be outraged wouldn’t we?

    Actually the more I think about it the harder that is to answer. Would we really be outraged?

  4. out of thin air (aka former ffl champ) said,

    McAllen, Tx….Do we really lose much? :):)

  5. Echo_ohcE said,

    The Kosovars did fight for their independence, and owing to the mountainous nature of the region, they could have kept up their insurgency indefinitely. They were provoked into their insurgency by the Serbs, who took clear steps to try to erase their culture. They were discriminated against and oppressed, treated like second rate citizens, and they had simply had enough, and began an insurgency.

    In response, the Serbs cracked down, and a lot of people who were uninvolved got caught in the crossfire, eventually leading to charges of attempted genocide on the part of the Serbs by the international community, which is why NATO stepped in.

    But make no mistake, this is about the West’s expansion, and the East’s decline. This is really a subtle manifestation of the old Cold War between the West and the old USSR and its allies.

    This is a big victory of West over East.

    Iran has said nothing because they really don’t care. You might think that they’d view it as a victory of Islam over Serb Orthodox (Christianity), but it really isn’t. Like you said, they’re culturally Islamic, but practically secular.

    And there are a TON of natural resources there that have been fought over for a very, very long time. Even Hitler was keen to get his hands on Kosovo, but the battle for those resources goes all the way back to the Roman Empire to my knowledge. This has been a hotly contested piece of property as long as history has been recorded.

    It is actually a pretty big deal.

  6. itsasecret2u said,

    What are the natural resouces that they’re fighting over? I was just curious because I know they import nearly all their food, unemployment is ridiculously high, they have constant rolling blackouts, etc., etc. I’m just wondering what the deal is with the economy if they have a land rich with natural resources. (That would be my kindergarten-level analysis of economics, right there… 🙂 )

    This is sort of a strange topic for me. I can’t seem to separate out the politics from the personal stories of the people I know there. So I was happy when I heard because I know it is what they wanted so very badly. But politically, I have no idea what it means or if it is good, bad, or whatever.

  7. Echo_ohcE said,

    I think it’s a mixed bag. It’s good because the Serbs were a wicked bunch. It’s bad, because rebellion against the duly appointed authorities were undermined.

    We seem to think today that authority ceases to be legitimate the very second it is abused. That’s bad. Now, the Serbs were abusing their power to a great degree, but it didn’t get really bad until it was in response to the insurgency. So it’s a mixed bag. We don’t want authorities to learn that it’s ok to abuse authority, but we don’t want people to learn that rebellion gets rewarded. Oh well.

    Anyway, the natural resources have just never properly been exploited. There’s never been the infrastructure. But since 1999, the EU has been building roads there like crazy, among other things. They’re building the ability to extract those resources, and when they do, that place will be the jewel of Europe. Seriously. It’ll be mega-wealthy. It’s all mining. There literally is no other place on earth that is so rich in unexploited mineral deposits.

  8. danielbalc said,

    There literally is no other place on earth that is so rich in unexploited mineral deposits.

    Actually West Africa seems to be that place with a lot of speculation that America has targeted it to become the IV of the US Oil addiction. It’s half the distance and half the cost of production that the middle east is currently sucking us dry for. (Of course we do have our OWN oil in Alaska we just refuse to use it).

    While Kosovo was busy declaring it’s independence and Serbia was busy burning stuff Bush was busy touring west Africa and calling US intentions to build a military base there “baloney”.

    Yeah I can see it being Baloney for bush since he’s out in less than a year, but if we are totally honest we have to realize that the US is indeed focusing a lot of attention in that region. Conveniently the terrorist are helping us by making sure that they train impressionable youths throughout Africa to hate America. All it will take is a couple of teenagers from Ghana, Guinea and The Ivory Coast to commit a terrorist act on US soil and BAM! The next 10 year conflict has us in Africa.

    Anyway back to Kosovo.

    I’m fairly familiar with what’s going on there but my two-fold question is…
    1. Does Kosovo’s declaration and subsequent mixed international recognition actually legitimize their “nation”?

    2. Has America lost the sense of nationalistic pride that these Serbs and Kosovars so obviously have?

    Bonus question…

    Is the source of their pride more racial, religious or regional? And again what does that say with regards to the hope for restoring American pride? As Michelle Obama recently said, “for the first time in my adult life I am actually proud of my country”, Is Obama really the cure all for this waning civic pride?

  9. danielbalc said,

    I’m trying to find the candidates opinions on Kosovo. Specifically Obama’s. He’s on the record as saying he would have never supported the Iraq war so I wonder if he would have supported American involvement in Kosovo. I mean now that it’s fairly clear that Kosovo has won and that American involvement was the key to that victory would he still stand by his apparent “non-interventionist” stance?
    Remember that when we went into Iraq we didn’t go it alone but had a remarkable international force.

    It’s all well and good for him to say he would have voted against the Iraq war (which 23 senators actually did; against 77 who approved it). But since he didn’t have a vote he may have opposed it but his opposition didn’t mean a thing. He had no vote. But now there are three separate conflicts that he can look at and comment on. In chronological order…


    It’s funny how the further away from those conflicts we get the clearer it arises whether or not we should have gotten involved. So would he have invaded those countries or not? I only hear him talk about Iraq.

  10. Jess said,

    Sorry to not comment on Kosovo, I just got done reading Sealand’s website it’s very impressive how they have a “donate now” button on each page maybe other countries should try that. I’ve never even heard of Sealand but I love it, the original name, Roy, the shooting at random people who “invade” your space, the “passports”, the Sea dollars, the fire that detroyed everything that they mention every other sentence, the counterfeit Sealand “passports”. It’s great. I am waiting for it to be a category on Jeopardy! so I can get all the answers. Thank you for leading me to this knowledge, I feel like my half hour was well spent. Just think I could have been reading to my children or doing laundry (what a waste that would have been).

  11. itsasecret2u said,

    Daniel’s question #1:

    They haven’t been under Serbian control since 1999, so I’d say they’ve been their own nation for a while – a welfare state with U.N. training wheels, but a nation just the same. Daniel, we were there 2 years ago. Do you think those people were any more a part of Serbia then than they are now? It’s true what Echo said: this is not necessarily a good thing because the authority in power was undermined. However, rebellions, wars, shifts in power, new nations being created, etc. is a dance that’s been going on since the beginning of man. It’s not stopping until the world ends. Period.

    Daniel’s question #2:

    Of course we’ve lost it. Our generation has never been oppressed, exploited, or challenged the way the Kosovars have. Although the situation is entirely different, I imagine they have the sort of nationalistic pride that the first Americans had, but even more so because they actually have an historic claim to the land they are occupying. We saw a tiny glimpse of what might happen if the U.S. ever had to engage in a war where we had more than money and U.S. soldiers invested. Remember what it was like right after 9/11? Flags everywhere, “United We Stand,” and all of that? It’s because we were attacked on our own soil. Civilians lost their lives. It actually made people feel unsafe. It touched us personally.

    It’s like that for the Kosovars (and the Serbs, for that matter), but times 1000. There were massacres, a mass exodus, families ripped apart, cities destroyed… Then the U.N. came in and saved the day; but then what? The people have to return back to the wreckage – to the place where their fathers, husbands, sons, and friends were murdered – and try to rebuild, all the while cultivating the seed of hatred in their hearts. You can’t really blame them. We, as Americans, can’t even begin to relate. And we don’t want to. As soon as life got comfortable again, post-9/11, everyone was all anti-war and anti-Bush, who has of course become the poster-boy for the war. It was only 6 1/2 years ago and we’ve already forgotten what it was like to feel attacked and threatened. I imagine the sting would have lingered longer had we been through something as real as the war in Kosovo.

    Bonus Question:

    All of the above, but mostly regional. Their religious persuasions are not truly Muslim. It’s just a cultural thing.

  12. danielbalc said,

    so I’d say they’ve been their own nation for a while

    then why declare independence? Are they trying to stir up angst? What benefit do they receive from this new flag of theirs?

    And as far as you bonus answer being “mostly regional”, how strange is that? How attached to our “region” is anyone? Maybe growing up in San Diego, where everyone is from somewhere else, I have been calloused to this idea that the location where you are born is your home, your region, your culture, your life.

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