Lithuania, a new democracy, a new friend
Quite by accident I discovered Lithuania (the official name is Lietova.) ten years ago with my friend, Jim Fisher. There it was…pinched in at the bottom of the Baltic Sea between Latvia, Belarus, and Poland. About the size of South Carolina in population and area, but with a much higher (99.9%) literacy rate.
During my two– week stay, I observed a capitalistic furor creating new marketplaces, new construction, and new addictions by the hour; and an academic community frightened by the runaway commercialism, rampant freedom of expression, and the crush of new goods in the shopping malls.
I heard the independent– minded Lithuanians joke about their former Soviet oppressors:
• “The Russians believed, ‘If I am your boss, you are a fool. If you are my boss, I am a fool.’ Therefore, everyone was a fool.”
• “The Russian workers drink vodka and don’t believe in God; therefore, they can’t be trusted. But they do work cheap when they aren’t drunk.”
The Lithuanians praised America for hosting their leaders in exile during the Soviet times. They were eagerly learning English and American democracy. Everyone had at least one relative living in the U.S. Most had traveled to the U.S. and were familiar with New York, Chicago, and LA.
The South, they believed, is full of violence and racism, except for DisneyWorld. They admited fear of the potentially destructive superpower that is sometimes at odds with their new motherland, the European Union. But, most respected President Bush for taking a stand against terrorism.
Lithuania was a very pleasant place, a bit cooler than I prefer, but the people were polite, intelligent, and eager to get beyond their Soviet past. They looked ahead to a new Europe and rebirth of Lietova.
Next week: Lietova by any other name…