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Macedonian police officers armed with riot gear in front of the Macedonian government building during a Colorful Revolution protest commemorating the death of Martin Neskovski. (Credit: Elena Gagovska)

“Actually, the military is investing a lot of money into programs for women’s equality,” said one of the participants in a workshop during the “Bridging Backgrounds” conference for Macedonian high schoolers about tolerance, interethnic understanding and human rights that was organised with funding from the Davis Foundation. I couldn’t help but let out a laugh. Given that I was a volunteer at the conference and a co-facilitator of the workshop, this wasn’t the most appropriate thing to do. .

“Sorry for laughing; that’s just not at all the feminism I subscribe to,” I said — not because I thought that the statement he had made was untrue, but because we clearly had two very different feminist visions.

None of the other participants or my co-facilitator were surprised that my views differed from those of the buff, toxically masculine Macedonian teenager with the inexplicable and annoying American accent – we’ll call him Nikola. Being the son of a Macedonian military official, Nikola loves the military as an institution: the organization of it, the (morally questionable) work they do, their values, everything. But, beyond this, Nikola loves the US military in particular. At one point during the conference, outside of the formal educational activities, Nikola proclaimed that it saddened him that, as a non-US citizen, he can not become a marine. It seemed to me that Nikola thought of himself as an American and had the accent to prove it. I have met Americans who don’t question the actions of their country or military, but this was something else. When I asked Nikola if he approved of all of the actions the US military has taken, he said yes. When I asked “Even Yemen?”, he had no idea what I was talking about, completely oblivious to the US backing of the devastating two-year-long conflict that has left the country in ruins. To Nikola, the US military is not something to be questioned, but worshiped and even seen as a ground for progressive politics of female liberation.

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Macedonian nationalists after forcefully entering the parliament building in Skopje on April 27th 2017 (Credit: Novatv.mk)

After (basically) fascists break into your country’s parliament on Thursday the 27th April 2017, you feel as if so often you’ve discussed right-wing populism in too academic of a setting. You’ve talked about the causes and cures to a movement that is only now getting underway in the West, while this is the only kind of government you ever really remember living under in your home country. You find yourself unable to intellectualize something you and many others tried to prevent. This time, you feel much more helpless, and your reaction is much more outwardly distraught. You think about how there is a debate about school policy on potentially triggering texts on campus the next day, and you wonder if any trigger warning (in the Internet meaning of the word, not the psychological one) could have prepared you for this. What would the trigger warnings for Thursday’s events have been, anyway?

TW: “Anti-Albanian Rhetoric”; “Violence against Women”; “Neo-fascism”; “Imagery that Might Make a Macedonian in Berlin Feel Powerless”.

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