Srebrenica, Bebolucija, and the Politics of Life

babylution iconA year ago, I visited the Srebrenica-Potočari memorial for the first time. It was overwhelming. A sea of tombstones. Massive, gutted factory buildings. Suffocating silence.

This week, millions are commemorating the nightmares of July 1995, when ultranationalist Bosnian Serb forces overtook the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica and slaughtered more than eight thousand men and boys.

This is one time of year that Bosnia and Herzegovina is sure to get some of the global media attention it deserves. That’s good, because the world must never forget or deny what happened at Srebrenica, and the victims and their loved ones deserve a dignified, sacred remembrance.

I worry, though, that the media coverage will perpetuate an old distortion: Bosnia and Herzegovina as a land of ghosts. The world will not fully understand the tragedy of Srebrenica unless it appreciates how much life there was in BiH, and how much still remains. This is the gift and promise of the fledgling bebolucija (“baby revolution”) there. It honors the dead by standing up for the children of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

These are the politics of life, pitted against the politics of death: the zombie politics of nationalists, who haunt the living by resurrecting the worst of the past.

Last summer, I made sure that my journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina included Srebrenica. But I also made sure that it did not end there. All over BiH, in cities like Tuzla, Sarajevo, Mostar, and Bihać, I met warm, beautiful, vibrant people with a deep understanding of their country’s past, its problems, and its potential. They are the future of BiH and the soul of the “baby revolution.”

Nothing will ever fully atone for the crimes, or heal the wounds, of Srebrenica. But there is still a chance for Bosnia and Herzegovina to take its rightful place on the European and global stage, as a thriving civilization that stands for democracy, tolerance, and human rights. The citizens of BiH have all the determination and wisdom they need to realize this dream. As they imagine and create a new life together, however, they need—and deserve—strong international support, both political and economic. Such assistance, offered with a spirit of genuine contrition and long-term commitment, would be the most appropriate and meaningful tribute that the international community could offer to the victims, and the survivors, of the Bosnian genocide.

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About Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson teaches religion, ethics, and philosophy at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. Born in 1975 in Olean, NY, he earned the Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in American religious history. He writes, teaches, and lectures about religion in America, popular culture, Mormonism, and Bosnia. He lives in Exeter with his partner, Alexis Simpson, and their two children.
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8 Responses to Srebrenica, Bebolucija, and the Politics of Life

  1. Kathy Brownback says:

    honor the ghosts but by no means let them be the whole truth–thanks for the reminder Tom. Your love for this place is inspiring.

  2. Thanks for the blog entry Tom; believing that the tragedy of Srebrenica will eventually become a bridge of healing & hope for the new generation. We are moving back to Sarajevo this month; look us up whenever you’re passing through. Keep writing and take care.

  3. Rick Simpson says:

    Eloquent, powerful writing, Tom. Thanks again.

  4. irkinja says:

    Hi Tom, love your writing on Bosnia – I hope I followed you on WordPress (sometimes hard to tell when using app:). So important to do whatever possible to raise issues related to BiH. My husband & I have been v much involved in the JMBG campaign – least we could do as part of the diaspora. Back in Ireland from Bosna 2 weeks ago & had try to start documenting things (in an Irish / Bosnan way:). First step into the dodgy cyber world & a bit phobic when it comes to social media, so I’d be so grateful for any help with spreading the word. Writing today about remembering Srebrenica while listening to news from Egypt. Different types of conflict but similar consequences – horrendous loss of life. Anyhow, please check out my Bosnian-Irish coffee blog. Pozdravi iz Irske! Bronagh

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