Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kosovo vs US Economy: Which is the Bigger Crisis?

If you watch the TV news in the Balkans, you'll become convinced the US is going through a massive meltdown. The dollar is plummeting and the economy is rotten to the core. European commentators are making sage, saddened remarks about the looming US unemployment crisis. And the way the housing market and exchange rates are going, soon every Macedonian sheepherder will be able to afford vacation condos in their choice of Manhattan, Las Vegas or Miami.

My step-son, now visiting his old hometown in the Balkans, is getting pitying pats on the back from local friends. Never mind they have very little chance of owning their own homes or even getting well paying jobs in their own towns for years to come. He's the one to be concerned about, he's going back to America. Land of the Giant Sinking Feeling.

When I myself got back in the US a few weeks ago after six months abroad, I frantically questioned my friends and relatives. Were they ok? Was business badly off? Were there foreclosure signs up and down the streets? How were they coping with the slumping value of the dollar?

They looked slightly puzzled. What was I going on about? Oh, sure a few houses are for sale, but nothing really unusual. Gas prices have gone up again a bit, but what else is new? The media mentions a recession sometimes, but there's 287 channels on cable TV so why watch the boring old news? (Even people who used to watch the news don't anymore since Iraq began and Bush re-won; it's all so depressing and we have to wait for another president to change things, so why bum yourself out every evening? Watch Bravo instead - the shows are better and your vote really will make a difference.)

Then they change the topic of conversation. They were wondering about the Real Crisis. What's going on in Kosovo? Do we know anyone there, are they OK, are we ok, is Serbia going to be OK?? Now that's a real crisis!

If Americans had any idea of what the Balkan and European newsmedia was saying about them right now, the recession would probably be worse than it already is. Perception is reality for stock markets and currency values.... luckily Americans are for the most part blithely unknowing of how big a deal any of this is to them. It's not touching their lives... quite yet.

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