The ancient Greeks had a wonderful saying, methen agan — “nothing in excess.” This insight is a cornerstone of Western civilization; indeed, moderation is the simple ingredient that enables so many of the unique political and cultural institutions of our society to function.
Not that extreme points of view have no place — far from it. Every community needs both individuals who explore new horizons and individuals who firmly adhere to old horizons. That, if anything, is what makes the world go ’round. But the West has developed institutions which channel and make the best of those clashing points of view, so that rather than being harmed by the exchange, society at large is actually benefited. Such institutions include a free press, political parties, representative government, our Constitution, and so on.
Though we never expected it, the Newsletter has turned out to be one of the most important and successful institutions of our own community. But like all other institutions,it isn’t perfect.
When we started the Newsletter, we intended for it to be many things — fresh, informative, unusual, modern, and provocative. Occasionally, it is not as informative as we’d like; other times, it is perhaps too provocative.
One of our dreams was that we would not refuse letters and articles that disagreed with us. We have tried to fulfill this, but now have to admit that it may not always be a wise course of action.
Specifically, if a letter or article is too personal or too vindictive, it may be bad for the community to publish it unedited — and unhelpful to respond to it. Such, it turns out, was the exchange of letters in the last issue between Aurel Ciufecu and myself. Nothing good seems to have come of it; if anything, the exchange had an unhealthy polarizing effect.
We ought to learn from our experiences. As a result of this one, I am instituting a new editorial policy: If we receive an item that seems as if it might be too personal or too harsh, I will ask the writer to revise it in such a way that the essential points are made, but without rancor. And lest my decision seem arbitrary, I have arranged to call upon my colleagues at the Society for a second opinion, if needed, on such pieces.
This Newsletter must chart all waters, hazardous or not. Our new policy risks infring-ing upon our First Amendment rights. But people of good will created the Bill of Rights, and people of good will can certainly preserve it. Accordingly, I extend a hand to Mr. Ciufecu, and ask the cooperation and support of all our readers. Let us never forget the primary purpose of this Newsletter: to inform and strengthen our small and far-flung community. With your help, we can do this and still accomodate all points of view.
In the December 31, 1989 issue of the New York Times, columnist William Safire announced that “freedom” was the key word of 1989. How right he was.
Who among us — especially those of us born into the Cold War, as it were, knowing no other world — who among us ever thought that someday, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., freedom would ring from the mammoth shipyards of Gdansk to the snow-capped Carpathians, from the coal mines of Siberia to the banks of the mighty Danube?
And how could it have happened without the shining example of America? Our country is the powerful beacon that guided these ships of state into the safe harbor of freedom. The world will forever be in the debt of the United States for its steadfast commitment to liberty and democracy.
Of course, not all people have heard freedom’s ring, and some who have heard it do not yet think its sound terribly sweet — but the fact remains that the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe have fallen one by one. Some of these countries have seen ugly totalitarianism replaced by ugly authoritarianism, but we are hopeful because we believe that freedom is an idea which will someday be proclaimed all over the world — not just in Berlin and Bucharest, but also in Beijing and Beirut.
The great question in our community today is, What do these changes mean for our people — for the Vlachs?
There is no simple answer. Though our people will no doubt benefit from the increasing liberty of their societies, the situation is different in each country. Here is a quick summary of where things stand, and where they might soon go:
Albania – Still under firm Communist control at this writing, Albania is showing some token signs of democratization, including increased freedom to travel. We in America await visits from our relatives as a concrete sign of change.
Yugoslavia – Only hard-line Communism was able to keep this ethnic patchwork quilt together. The once dominant Serbs are struggling against Croats, Slovenians, and Albanians. To enlist Vlach support, the Serbs may be willing to offer schools and broadcasts in our language.
Bulgaria – Aromanians here are no longer being forced to adopt Slavic last names. Our community in Bulgaria is too small to pose a threat, so we foresee positive developments.
Romania – The new regime in Bucharest has been a huge disappointment to people throughout the world. Yet there is some good news for our people: 41 years after the the Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society was disbanded by the government, it has been re-established as the “Aromanian Cultural Society.”
The next year will be crucial for developments in the Balkans. Stay tuned.