The tainted senator and unreformed communists didn’t get into the European Parliament by chance

By Martin Jan Stransky 
The Prague Post
(June 24, 2004)

We were sitting in the twilight, looking out a window at Prague Castle. A pale, unobtrusive sun slid slowly under the horizon. Our conversation drifted. When it arrived at the European Parliament election results, there was a pause. Hana shook her head, looked out the window and asked: “What kind of a society is this? Where are the normal people?”

I moved to this country 14 years ago because of family tradition and a promise. I’m not telling you this to impress you but because it’s simple fact. Our family fled for their lives from the communists and continued fighting them afterward. The communists stole everything we had and wiped out everything we stood for. I promised my grandfather that if there ever was an opportunity to right the wrong, I would take it. That day came, and off I went.

Though I was well-informed about the difficulties of life under the communists (my father co-founded the Czechoslovak service of Radio Free Europe), the disappointments of the “post-revolution” days were hard to take. I wasn’t the only one who felt it; we all did. Mynaivete merged with that of freed Czechoslovaks who believed that the changes would come sooner.

Growing division

But to what extent are our misfortunes unique? In the last 14 years, not just our nation but the entire world continues to divide into two groups — those who have and those who do not. It is a world in which civilian prisoners are publicly beheaded by terrorists, where the cries of a few are diluted by the silence of the rest as they read the story and put down the magazine to watch TV. Planes smash into skyscrapers, trains crammed with commuters explode, and young girls blow themselves apart to go to Allah. Life is cheap.

Where are the normal people? Europeans East and West have again forgotten the lessons of their past and resurrected nationalism and alibi-ism. Instead of coming together and focusing on true threats they bad-mouth their allies — witness the behavior of France andGermany toward the United States, a country that ensured their future not once, not twice but three times in the last 100 years.

As for America, even though it still leads the world, it too is a nation polarized as never before. The response to Ronald Reagan’s passing showed just how much America yearns for the days of the past and how it is devoid of a clear vision of its future.

In the Arab world, time stands still. It is a world without a single democracy, in which a few rule at the expense of the many. Punishment is still meted out by public lashing and the amputation of a limb. It is a culture with which we haven’t learned to communicate because we are unable to comprehend the fact that we are centuries apart.

Who do we allow to lead us in our world? The American president began a war based on a false premise. We open our arms to former terrorist Moammar Gadhafi while we allowYasser Arafat, who supports terrorists, to keep our most sacred public award, the Nobel Peace Prize. To represent Czechs in Europe we elect corrupt senators and active communists. We applaud Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek, who if given the power and the chance would again order that those who try to run across a field to freedom be shot in the back.

Lessons unlearned

But none of these people got there by chance. We Czechs voted for them. We simply don’t learn. We yearn for our former communist masters and reach for the outstretched hand of a familiar corrupt face over an unfamiliar honest one. We enter the future via excuses.

Consider Vladimir Zelezny, the former media magnate now facing charges of tax evasion and fraud in connection with his previous role as director of TV Nova. “It was actually a rough period, in which Senator Zelezny, just like everyone else, had to orient himself regarding the law of the land. We really should forgive him,” a Senate colleague ofZelezny’s recently told me.

We overwhelmingly support Vaclav Klaus, a president who divides our society into those who agree with him and those who do not. Instead of offering vision and hope, Klaus warns of our entry into Europe, thereby strengthening our national sense of perpetual uncertainty.

And so we sit at home in the twilight, gazing at the sun as it sets behind Prague Castle, the centuries-old symbol of our nation’s past — the symbol now of a present in which very little has changed, thanks to our short memory and reluctance to learn.

— The writer is a physician and the publisher of The New Presence and Pritomnost magazines. This piece was written for The Prague Post.



The Prague Post24.6.2004

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