Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Macedonia - Part Two

While visiting Kenzie in Macedonia, we had a chance to share a meal with one of his friends who served in the Peace Corps there ten years ago and married a Macedonian woman. For a few years, Jeb and Kristina moved back to the States and lived in Wyoming. But when they had children, the lack of safety in our country concerned them greatly.
“I couldn’t fathom being in a park with my children and having to be afraid someone might kidnap them,” Kristina told me after lunch, amazed at some of the heinous crimes that take place in our country that don’t make us bat an eye. “We decided we wanted to raise our kids in Macedonia where it’s safer.”
The fact that Macedonia is safer than our country puzzles me because there is so much more poverty and very high unemployment over there.  Throughout our travels around different cities, I was struck often by how many older men seemed to be idly sitting on porches or wandering around sidewalks in the middle of the day – an unfamiliar sight to an American. But the Macedonian culture showed me poverty and idleness aren’t necessarily reasons for crime.

Kristina attributes the safety in their country to the fact that they have managed to maintain a strong family structure, unlike here.  Generations still live together and everyone knows their neighbor. “It brings a great shame on the family if someone commits a crime here,” she told me. “Everyone would know the family and know the person who broke the law.”
So not only do we have broken family structures over here, but we have anonymity because of our disengaged communities. We can do things in secret and no one finds out. Part of this comes down to the size of our country compared to a country the size of Vermont like Macedonia. And part of it comes down to their view of relationships. People spend large parts of the day visiting and socializing. But when I came home from my trip and told friends here about how they drop by each other’s houses uninvited and stay for hours, to a person everyone responded, “I don’t want people dropping in uninvited. I’m too busy.” I’m in agreement. Sorry folks.
Kenzie enjoying time with his neighbors.
 Kenzie’s former host dad asked me if I knew my neighbors. I told him we do but we don’t get together to socialize unless there’s a block party or a holiday celebration.  “But you never go into each other’s homes?” he asked incredulous. No, we chat on the street mostly….sometimes for long periods of time.
So how do we make our large country smaller, or do we even want to do so? Is that in violation of American freedom and privacy?