Amid the uproar over the incidents involving Croat and Serb sports fans in and around Novi Sad in recent days, one development stuck out more than others.
A little background first… Fights between these fans, in this case related to the European Championships in team handball, held in Serbia, are a common thing and historically, the Croat fans have been way more hostile and aggressive towards Serb fans than the other way around. This time, the incidents happened in Serbia and the Croat hooligans were on the receiving end of the aggression that they provoked. After the reception Serbian fans are met with regularly in Croatia, this outburst of violence didn’t surprise me one bit, especially in lieu of the incitement to violence these Croat fans charged the already strained relationship with. Singing Thompson’s songs in Serbia, especially at a sports event, is not advised, to say the least, and it calls for either for legal repercussions or a beating. To be clear, I’m not talking about American baseball fans that come to the games for hot dogs and coke. European sports fans, especially in the Balkans, are an entirely different animal and violence among them is widespread, inside and outside stadiums. I wouldn’t make the trip to see Serbia play Croatia in Croatia, not only because I don’t particularly care about being in Croatia, but because for a Serb, it is still very dangerous and I’m not the type of person who invites danger for no good reason. In Serbia, on the contrary, Serbs haven’t given Croat fans much of a reason to feel threatened, unless, of course, they made offensive remarks and sang Thompson’s neo-Nazi songs. It does, however, takes a special kind of a Serb to travel to cheer for his team in Zagreb and it takes a special kind of a Croat to sing neo-Nazi songs in Novi Sad. That kind looks for danger and welcomes danger, unfortunately. Anyway, my point was that incidents of this nature and with these participants are nothing unusual, just less usual in Serbia than in Croatia.
The thing that stang me the most, though, was the controversy over a graphic montage circulating on social networks, showing Serbian and Croatian flags blended into one, apparently symbolizing some form of unity between our two nations. Ivan Ivanovic, a talk show host on Prva Srpska TV station took offense to this, as did many other Serbs expressing their views on social networks, and called out the author, on Twitter, to come to his show and eat shit on live TV. Something along those lines... the author, a columnist evidently associated with Kurir newspaper, whose pseudonym is Milan Strongman, responded by accepting the challenge, promising to come to the show and eat the “proverbial” Serbian shit on camera. I am not in a habit of saying a condescending “Wow…” but this absurdity warrants it. Ivanovic was against the connecting of the flags, even as a sign of sports fan solidarity, because he thought it to be offensive to the Serbian flag, a national and state symbol. He also likes to bring attention to his very popular talk show, modeled after Leno’s and Letterman’s late night charades, in controversial ways. I guess Strongman felt the same way about bringing the attention to himself, but to accept the challenge to eat shit on the most watched late night talk show is beyond comprehension. This lunacy is just an example of sickness saturating the Serbian society. Imagine Jay Leno calling out Sean Penn like that and Sean Penn taking the bait.
At the same time, the Croatian government is ordering RTL TV station to subtitle Serbian movies it shows. While Croatian public overwhelmingly supported this ludicrous move, the Serbs are tying their flag to the Croatian flag in solidarity with Croat sports hooligans. If this is not a manifestation of “the crazy gene,” I don’t know what is. And this “Serbian crazy gene” is present in both the Croats, who subtitle the language they speak, and in the Serbs, who have a sick tendency to admire these Croats, extending the reconciliation hand time and time again. If you’d believe Croatian news media, there was a letter written by an anonymous lady from Novi Sad, who apologized to everybody and their mother for the attack by Serb hooligans against the Croat hooligans. As if anybody cared, this lady listed all the Croats she wanted to apologize to, apparently all her Croat friends, certainly afraid they will start looking at her as a Gypsy barbarian after the incidents. I wonder if they have ever apologized to her for Jasenovac and Jadovno, Korita and Prebilovci, or Maslenica and Lora, most recently, not to mention the expulsion of 250,000 Krajina Serbs.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t understand this need in some Serbs to be friends with their enemies. Croats, since Starcevic and Pavelic, have never shown an inkling of brotherly sentiment towards Serbs. Far from it, all the Serbs ever received from the Croat nation was aggression, pain and suffering – if the Croats where in a dominant position, that is. Croats, many of which descend directly from Serbs, have not done anything in their history as an independent nation that could downgrade their relationship towards the Serbs to anything but extremely hostile. Every chance they’ve got, they tried to exterminate us, plain and simple. What Serb, in his or her right mind, can ever warm up towards the Croat nation?
I’m not calling for any kind of violence against Croats, I’m calling for common sense. Suffice to say, individuals are individuals; people can be friends on an individual level, regardless of the ethnic background. Some Serbs have Croat family members. We speak the same language (at least Serbs say so), we’ve lived in the same countries for centuries, we are of one ethnic ancestry, after all (again, according to Serbs). But it was the Croatian national policy that killed over a million Serbs in the last century alone, on several occasions, in the most gruesome way. It’s the Croatian public that doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Serbs, their pathetic brotherly feelings and their nostalgia. It’s the Croats that still use every opportunity to show hostility towards us. And it’s the Serbs that always find ways to forget this, to sweep it under a rug, to turn a blind eye or the other cheek. It’s the philosophy of the slaughtered and we do get slaughtered at every turn following this philosophy of forgiveness and unawareness of our own interests.
Have your Croat friends. Have your Croat family. But don’t confuse that allegiance with the allegiance to the Serbian organic national interests. Don’t equate your Croat cousin with a Croat hooligan singing neo-Nazi songs in Serbia. Your Croat cousin and your Croat friend may be good people, good to you or good in general, but that doesn’t make them friends to all the Serbs, nor does that require other Serbs to be friendly to them. Don’t be embarrassed of the actions of other Serbs towards Croat hooligans and neo-Nazis and if you want to apologize, be my guest, but out of self-respect, wait for your Croat friend’s apologies for Lora and Maslenica, at least, since they most likely haven’t consented to Jasenovac.
When it comes to the incidents in Novi Sad, I’ll just say this: whoever sang neo-Nazi songs in the arena and made other expressions offensive to the host country should have been arrested on the spot for neo-fascism, anti-Serb speech and inciting ethnic hatred. Then the police should have arrested those Serb hooligans that attacked the rest of the Croat fans, who left the arena without committing any crimes. If Serbia was a self-respecting nation, there would be laws against fascist manifestations and those laws would have been enforced in the SPENS Arena. Since there were no laws that protect Serbian human and cultural sensitivities in Serbia, or they weren’t enforced, the offended had to take the matter into their own hands against the offenders.