As you read this, we will be on a ferry, leaving this painfully beautiful country of Montenegro and heading for Italy.
It is July 4th. Few people on this ferry will have much of an interest in the significance of that date for these two travelers from the US. But they do understand very well the significance of freedom and national identity.
What I've come to learn about Montenegrins -- the people of the Crna Gora -- is that their national identity has survived all of the efforts of the world community to redefine them; to combine them with other nations for expediency; and to cow them into submission.
Along the way they have adjusted for survival. Yet the one thing they have never done is surrender. The crest on the Montenegrin flag is the eagle with upswept wings. It is their most treasured symbol of pride. Pride that throughout the years of successive dominations, the one thing they have never done, is lower their wings in defeat.
Montenegrins, no matter what national names they may have worn, are a fierce and proud and ancient race. The granite in their character matches the granite strewn mountains of their homeland.
Montenegro has produced statesmen, poets, artists, and more than a few villians. Their bloodlines run through the royal families of many of the powerful countries of the continent. Including Queen Elena of Italy, a woman who stood a foot taller than her husband, Victor Emmanuel III.
As a citizen of the United States, a country where we pride ourselves in our hyphenated heritage, I am in awe of these people of the Crna Gora. Their national identity is not only literally in their DNA, but it is in the DNA of their conciousness.
So to our fellow countrymen on this 4th day of July, have a wonderful holiday. If, like we, you find yourself in some other part of the world, we hope you will declare your nationality on this special day with the same pride that Montenegrin's declare theirs every day.
Keep your eagle's wings aloft.