“History has made lawyers of the Croats…”

10 Dec

…Rebecca West famously wrote, “soldiers and poets of the Serbs. It is an unhappy divergence.”

And she is proven, once again, to be among the sharpest ever of Western observers of the Balkans.  From today’s New York TimesBob Dylan’s Discordant Notes:

“Last month, France presented Bob Dylan with its highest civilian prize, the Legion of Honor. At the ceremony, the French culture minister gushed about how Mr. Dylan had inspired a whole generation to push for peace and civil rights, about how he was inspired by Verlaine and Rimbaud in his fight for justice and freedom.

“It turns out that just days before the award was pinned on Mr. Dylan’s lapel, a Parisian prosecutor had filed preliminary charges against Mr. Dylan for violating a law that restricts free speech. The French authorities are investigating Mr. Dylan for “public injury” and “incitement to hatred.” The timing was strange since the inquiry involves comments made more than a year ago to Rolling Stone magazine. Also, the full transcript of his remarks makes it clear he was decrying racism rather than trying to incite racial hatred.”

It turns out the lawsuit was filed by the Representative Council of the Croatian Community and Institutions in France.  What they objected to was the following from Dylan:

“It’s a distraction,” the singer-provocateur said in the September 2012 interview. “People at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back — or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery — that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”

It’s hard to take the simplistic comments of someone I’ve always thought was a posturing creep like Bob Dylan seriously, but the Croats are infuriated that they can end up in the same sentence as the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis and, of course, are filing charges.  Who even knows how much Dylan knows about the Balkans or the former Yugoslavia or Serbs or Croats.  I just found it gratifying for someone to state so publicly that Serbs might have historical reasons to fear others, since Croatian WWII crimes are among the least talked about in post-war Europe, and Croatian war crimes during the Yugoslav Wars among the least publicized, and that for once Serbs weren’t made the default villains in that relationship.

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For those who weren’t aware, Croatia officially joined the European Union just this past July.  Thus, the most dangerous Euroligourides (“Euro-salivators” in Zouraris‘ wonderful term) and frangoplektoi (“Frank-ridden” — though I guess technically they are Frangoi) of Balkan peoples see their dreams realized and join their Teutonic buddies.  Alles Gute, then, herzlichen Glückwunsch und auf Wiedersehen!

comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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