A Small Ode to Albania

 Posted by on 25 February 2003 at 8:36 am  Uncategorized
Feb 252003

One of the reasons I enjoy Jay Nordlinger’s Impromptus is his keen appreciation of the brutality of tyranny — and his appreciation for the deep courage of those fighting against it. Far too many on the left lack even a shred of such sensibilities, as Nordlinger is always amazed to point out. In this vein, I particularly appreciated his two comments on the recently-denigrated country of Albania.

In the Feb 20th Impromptus, Nordlinger wrote:

Many of us, I know, are sickened by the repeated denigration of the Eastern European states that have supported the U.S. in this confrontation. A prominent left-wing journalist, as Mark Steyn pointed out, described the former Iron Curtain countries as nations “you can buy on e-bay.” And Mark Shields of CNN said, sarcastically, “Everyone’s feeling better. Albania signed on.”

This struck a nerve with me, as I was in Albania in September. I had never been to that country before. (Few of us Westerners have.) I met with many intellectuals and journalists. I met men who had been in prison for years, because they had dared to dissent from the brutal totalitarian regime that was ruling them. I was terribly moved by their expressions of support for America — and by their gratitude for the American role in opposing Soviet Communism. One intellectual told me that some other Europeans sneered at Albania as “the Israel of the Balkans.” I said he ought to consider that an enormous honor.

I have an Albanian flag — the double-headed eagle — “flying” in my office right now. And I am thrilled by the support and the heart of such people, for they know — more than people in Paris — about tyranny, freedom, and appeasement. In a way, I regard the support of Eastern Europeans as more desirable than the support of comfortable Westerners.

Mark Shields smirked, “Everyone’s feeling better. Albania signed on.” Well, I am.

Nordlinger followed up in the Feb 24th Impromptus:

In my last Impromptus, I wrote of certain liberals’ denigration of Albania, and how, especially given my experience there, I was particularly pleased that the Bush administration had the support of that nation. Several people wrote to remind me that Albania is a majority-Muslim state — which should make their support all the sweeter.

One reader wrote, hilariously, “Does our media establishment belittle this small nation because they aren’t proper Muslims? Are Albanians a nation of Islamic Miguel Estradas?”

Check out this letter from an Albanian-American, typically moving:

“I wanted to say a couple of words about Mark Shields’s comments. For many, many years, I was shocked and surprised that in every election in Italy, the Communist party got 30-35 percent of the votes. That the French Communist party got 20 percent or more. Same in Spain and Portugal. In Greece, there were and still are two Communist parties, with 10 percent of the vote each.

“I was wondering why these people voted for Communism. We were a country of 3 million inhabitants with 30,000 political prisoners, 100,000 in reeducation camps and forced labor, and 10,000 executed. Churches and mosques were destroyed in the cultural revolution of 1968, and listening to rock ‘n’ roll was punishable by jail. A family of four was entitled in a month to two pounds of beef, 24 eggs, half a pound of butter, 100 grams of coffee, half a liter of oil, and a pound of feta cheese. If police heard you complain about conditions, you got seven years in jail. In the meantime, millions of Western Europeans voted for Communism, over and over again.

“Four years ago, I bought a house and since then have been flying two flags at the entrance, an American flag and an Albanian flag. Both of them had been flying in my heart for many years, even in middle of a Communist dictatorship. (The Albanian flag, in my heart, was without the Communist star on top.)

“So, 3 million Albanians should mean something to Mark Shields. But, of course, they do not.

“P.S. Six months ago, I went to see a Rolling Stones concert with my brother. A dream came true, and my brother and I left the concert crying. It reminded us that not too long ago, listening to them was punishable by jail. When are people going to know about Communism? When?”

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