Women’s March in Washington, DC prompted me to reassess the many years that I had kept silent about the “politics of love” that Hillary Clinton has propagated.
For a long time, I had been led to believe that I should accept the bombing of Belgrade and Serbia as a necessary outcome of Milosevic’s domestic and regional policy and his blatant denial to comply with international standards of good governance and the rule of law.
The common theme was that there is no room for a personal view in a global struggle to protect those whose rights were evidently violated and give voice to those who, at the time, presented themselves as beacons of transition to a democracy that would provide equal rights and protection from inhumane treatment for the people of Serbia and Kosovo, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.
It is for this reason that I had thought for many years that it was not my place to voice what I experienced in an afternoon of 1999, when I had to press pause on my life in order to run down to a basement shelters with my little brother and sister amidst sirens of NATO bombs that fell on Belgrade that night, and continued to fall for months thereafter.
I was a teenager, and our parents were at the time spending a week in the mountain resort of Kopaonik, some hours’ drive from Belgrade. As the roads were blocked, they could not return home, so a neighbor came to take the three of us to the shelters.
We found a black plastic bag which we quickly stuffed with food and other household items that we could find around the apartment that we thought could be of use whilst sheltering ourselves from NATO bombs in the basement of our 1990s Belgrade apartment building. The three children hoped that the items from the black bag would last for days and had no idea as to what would happen next.
As we were at that time the only family in the neighborhood who had satellite TV, our neighbors crammed in our apartment to see what CNN and BBC were reporting, as we could not get any updates on the national TV which was working hard at disseminating Milosevic’s propaganda of “business as usual.”
I don’t remember any of us crying, I don’t even remember any of us being scared. I just remember an absolute, eerie silence as we walked down to the basement. What was waiting for us there was nothing but the bare walls and cold, concrete floors. We were clearly not prepared for this.
What I do remember very vividly is the mind-blowing realization that we had completely lost control of our own lives. I came to terms with how powerless a child can feel when facing a bizarre situation of a superpower deciding to interfere in her life. It was only months and years later when I realized that Hillary and Bill Clinton were those deciding our destinies, the destinies of my little brother and sister. We knew they were The First Family, but we also knew that they did not know us, or care about us, at all.
I had no answers as to whether we were going to live or die and those around us, disturbingly, felt the same. When the first bomb hit our neighborhood, the floor underneath me started to shake and we all fell to the ground. I don’t remember the rest. I may have consciously blocked it out of my memory. All I can remember is that that electricity went off. I could not see anything but I felt only ruins and dust all around me. And, thankfully, the voices of my brother and sister.
The first night was over but we continued living in basement shelters for three months. It was very much like the Diary of Anne Frank, but without the Nazis. There was little food, no running water, and running an electrical appliance was a distant memory.
My family never voted for Milosevic and neither did my friends. Yet, the Clinton administration thought that punishing the capital of Belgrade, which was, according to all formal and informal opinion polls, the core of the opposition movement trying to overthrow Milosevic, was the right thing to do.
For many years, I thought that I should just live with my experience as I pursue greater goals in life. I did not feel that sharing the story was the right thing to do, that the “politics of love” that the Clintons advocated and supported was the right opinion.
However, today’s Women’s March in Washington, DC prompted me to reassess the many years that I had kept silent about the “politics of love” that Hillary Clinton has propagated. Throughout the election, Hillary Clinton has insisted that her message to the electorate is the one of hope and love. Coming from a country that has felt the effects of the Clinton administration first hand, I beg to disagree. She is a political leader who supported the 1999 bombing of Belgrade and the killing of civilians in a European capital, hence I am really glad that Hillary Clinton did not get to become the American President. She may have, for one reason or another, gathered sympathy of Obama’s generation of young Americans who do not remember the bombing of Belgrade and the carnage of Yugoslavia but I, therefore, struggle to pinpoint the message of love in the policy of Hillary Clinton. Victims, of which I am one, never forget, having spent three months in shelters with little food, electricity, or water. The only march that should be happening right now is a march to her political retirement.
What I have observed over the past couple of weeks and months is that many people across the US and around the world have felt empowered to stand up for what they believe in. Regardless of our place in the political or ideological spectrum, we are being vocal, committed and passionate. This is exactly what we need in order to progress as a global society. I do hope that this trend continues and, indeed, I continue to believe in peaceful and respectful means to express support, concern or disagreement.
I did not support Hillary Clinton and I am glad that she did not become the US President. A leader who was instrumental in supporting the bombing of the civilian population is not someone I can support.
I am of the opinion that America needs a wider dialogue on what our red lines are when it comes to foreign military intervention and really define what the message and politics of love mean. I would hope that Hillary could genuinely support this process at a time when she no longer has a significant role in American political discourse or indeed a future in a US governmental position of global influence.
Demolishing the streets of Washington, DC is definitely not acceptable means to establish a dialogue. Likewise, an elitist, self-serving and celebrity-like figure of Hillary Clinton as the leader of American democratic thought is not what an inclusive American society needs at this time.
I have lost friends to the Balkan wars. Most of them were children like I was. They lost their lives during the 1999 bombing of Belgrade and Serbia. I was lucky I survived, and it took a lot of strength and resilience to come to this point in my life when I can speak of love, politics, democracy, and intervention.
I now live in America, the country of free speech and respect for human rights and I am committed to contributing to our political future whilst examining and learning from the past of our leaders.
I can say confidently that neither of the parties set the cornerstone of American democracy or, indeed, a free and fair world that we all aspire to. Moreover, I am absolutely certain that Hillary did not do this either. This is why I did not march today. Not least because Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright were those who supported the killings of innocent civilians in Belgrade and I happen to no longer want to be quiet about that. Feel free to judge me, but do keep in mind that I, America and the world are not what we used to be.
The author would like to thank her friends, near and far, for contributing memories and thoughts that inspired this story.
Read more: My Life in a Voluntary Exile