Havel in the News

A couple of days ago I got a comment here about my post about Václav Havel’s candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize, which in the end was won by the Iranian human rights advocate Shirin Ebadi.

In the comment, the reader, who goes by the name of Anarchist Patriot, went on a rant against Havel, saying:

This has got to be a joke. Havel did help bring democracy to his people but so what? He also issued a blanket amnisty on all the Stalinst butchers. If he had enought strength of will to institute a Nuremburg style trial and bring all of those SOBs to trial and hang them all then I might respect him more. What happened next is these same pigs who raped and tortured are now businessmen and government officials. Nobody wants to remember the past.

I usually try to ignore flamebait, but from time to time I believe idiocy needs to have a little light shone on it.

The trouble is that this reader is not alone in his opinion; hold a show trial and kill ’em all. I run into people like this all the time. Aside from its obvious “more-anti-Communist-than-thou” posturing, it also leaves no plan for the future, aside from creating another round in an endless cycle of hatred.

I’ve spent some quality time in Albania, a land where, in its wild north, traditions like the blood feud remain in effect. In this tradition, if you kill a member of my family, I am honor-bound to avenge this death with a killing of a member of your family; there is dishonor on my family until this blood is avenged. You can imagine what this leads to.

The precise reason why I admire Václav Havel is that, at several key junctures in his political career, he could have called for blood, and he probably would have been successful.

In the chaotic days of November, 1989, he could have shot the Communist leaders in cold blood, Ceaucescu-style. He did not.

In the days of 1992, he could have provoked a civil war by demanding that Slovakia remain in the Czechoslovak Republic. He did not.

He could have used his considerable appeal to alter the Czech constitution to give the presidency greater powers, as was done in Russia by Yeltsin. He did not.

Instead, he’s used his time on the bully pulpit to point out that there are no easy choices, and that the only lasting answer to injustice is not more injustice, but truth and love.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Havel makes the connection between those moral leaders who stood up to the Czechoslovak regime and those who are now standing up for democracy in Burma:

There are many politicians in the free world who favor seemingly pragmatic cooperation with repressive regimes. During the time of communism, some Western politicians preferred to appease the Czechoslovak thugs propped up by Soviet tanks rather than sustain contacts with a bunch of dissidents. These status-quo Western leaders behaved, voluntarily, much like those unfortunate people who were forced to participate in the massive government rallies: They allowed a totalitarian regime to dictate to them whom to meet and what to say. At that time, people such as the French president, Francois Mitterrand, and the Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Max van der Stoel, saved the face of the Western democracies by speaking and acting clearly. By the same token, politicians such as Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople redeem the Asian reputation by not hesitating to speak the truth. The regime in Burma is, as a matter of fact, the disgrace of Asia, just as Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus is the disgrace of Europe and Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba of Latin America.

Consider the gravity of these words. Compare them to the words of my commentor, which I must classify as hospodské kecy.

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