By MANIFESTO JOE
There was once a novel, and also a song, called something like, Been Down So Very Damn Long That It Looks Like Up To Me. This is one theory about George W. "Bushie" Bush's mysterious popularity in the European garden spot of Albania.
In America, his approval ratings have sunk into the toilet. Here in his home state, he's below 50 percent. In parts of Europe, he's in single digits. In Italy, while he was meeting with the pope, angry mobs took to the streets.
In Albania, he got a rock star's reception. "Bushie, Bushie," they chanted. Old women kissed him on both cheeks, and the rabble reached out to muss his gray hair. He was deemed by the prime minister the greatest guest the country ever had.
History must be considered. Among Europeans, Albanians are like someone who's been in a torture chamber so long that a stretch in a minimum-security prison must seem like utopia.
These are a long, long-suffering people, beset by empires and dictators of all sorts, starting with the Romans. They were dominated by the Ottoman Empire for centuries, which made them the only Muslim-majority populace in Europe. (Convert, or split).
Mussolini's Italian fascist army overran them just before World War II (although I read that they had a little trouble with the guys with the pitchforks). After the communists took over in 1944, they had a dictator, Enver Hoxha, who made Uncle Joe Stalin seem like a bud you could sit down and have a few chilled Stolis with.
In 1967 Hoxha declared the country the world's first official atheist country, closing all the mosques. Before he died and went to Hell in 1985, he somehow even managed to piss off communist China.
Even after Hoxha died and went to Hell, Albania's luck didn't get much better. In the 1990s the country started moving toward a market economy, but their first big taste of it was nasty. This from Wikipedia:
In 1997 widespread riots erupted after the International Monetary Fund forced the state to liberalize banking practices. Many citizens, naive to the workings of a market economy, put their entire savings into pyramid schemes. In a short while, $2 billion (80% of the country's GDP) had been moved into the hands of just a few pyramid scheme owners, causing severe economic troubles and civic unrest.
So, their first experience with capitalism was a vast Ponzi scheme, and they're still enthusiastic about it? Hell, they sound like Americans to me. Maybe Karl Rove can figure out a way to make them into the 51st state. They'd be a lock for the Republicans.
I guess when you been down so long, almost anything looks like up. Even Bush.
Manifesto Joe is an underground writer living in Texas. Check out his blog at Manifesto Joe's Texas Blues.