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To the editor:

A few years back I had the occasion to visit Serbia. There was a soiree one night in Belgrade where I visited with diplomats and politicians. I was talking to one man who was speaking about local politics. I didn’t understand the politics but my host became upset and walked away. When I went over to ask what was wrong, she said that the vocal political man I was speaking with upset her. I asked why. She replied that his ideas were what caused the Balkan War a few years earlier. She said that some things should not be spoken even in a free society.

I watch and read the news. I learn of politicians, and people who support them, trying to overturn America’s election result. We are living among people who want to overthrow democracy. I drive down the street. I see pro-Trump banners. The American flag they fly has new colors: black and blue. I don’t understand why they would want to discard our democracy. This does not look like my country. These are not our colors.

I try to be open-minded and allow people their indulgence. But I also remember my experiences in the Balkan states shortly after the war there and the words of my Serbian colleagues. Words and symbols are powerful. People can be persuaded to fight for things that they do not want. The fabric of society has been torn many times over the millennia and it can be torn again. One needs to be careful of what they wish for.

Stephen Bialkowski

Hyde Park

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