Two Velvet Revolutions: Czech’s & Gay’s

Over the past few days I’ve been devouring two books: After the Velvet Revolution; Vaclav Havel & the New Leaders of Czechoslovakia Speak Out — which is edited by Tim. D Whipple, and has selections from 14 leaders of the movement that swept away the Communists. And – Open Letters; Selected Writings, 1965-1990, By Vaclav Havel. Which is much of his philosophy of how democracy should work. He’s a world renown speaker on the subject, including giving a speech to the joint US Congress in 1990.

I do this because I’m fascinated by all things Czech, and to a lesser degree Slovak, because my four grandparents are from what is now the Czech Republic. I speak enough of the language to converse, and I know my way around that country; I have family there to stay with. I’m pretty steeped in the subject; to the point of writing my own book on Czech and Slovak things: A Hidden Impact; the Czechs and Slovaks of Louisiana from the 1720s to Today. You can get it at Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere of course. And on this Czech and Slovak subject I’m pretty expert, I think. But, still, one should always study more what one is intrigued by. So I’m reading the two books, found in my public library.

And while I was reading, trying to get my mind off of the current morass in our own country I kept seeing parallels between here and there. Sure, there’s the economics, which is simply the most important thing facing the country. And here’s what Vaclav Klaus, the finance minister in 1990, and later president of the country, and a man who is heartily against the global warming fraud, had to say, in a short piece entitled “Why Am I Optimistic?”:

“I do not intend to play with paradoxes. But as a liberal [he means in the old, “liberty” sense, not modern Democrat-liberal] economist I base my hearty optimism on something much more fundamental than whether politicians or bureaucrats can or cannot come up with some solution to our problems. I base it on a deep distrust of the ‘centralist’ thinking of politicians (or intellectuals in their role of advisers.) I feel that there is no wise minster, ministry, government, party or parliament – no matter how great their intellectual capabilities, and even with the support of the most powerful computers – that can ever substitute for the functioning of the impersonal market. I believe that there is very little that a government can do, although on the other hand this is quite a lot. The government should only concern itself with the circumstances in which the market can function, maintaining a stable currency and a healthy state budget. The government should not want to know what individual companies and organizations are doing, and certainly ought not advise them on what they should produce and to whom they should sell.”

And now, 20 years later we have a government here in the US that is going against this sage advice. With nearly every industry and organization now being guided by Washington and an army of bureaucrats. And more to come. There are some cute cartoons in the book with Klaus, that encapsulate this. I’ll just give you the captions:

“This is the department of blunders and mistakes; crimes are next door.”

“Bring me a complete list of all the idiocies we’ve managed to commit.”

“I apologize for my reticence, Miss, I belong to the generation that never said boo.”

“I can’t tell anymore if I’m a comrade, non-aligned, or just an idiot.”

“I don’t understand. We had reports that everyone was terrified.”

“Look, you’ve fulfilled your historic task, so get out!” (Something being said to incumbents here.)

“When I look at my country, I feel a certain debt. Something in the range of seven billion.”

How can we be now so eerily similar in concept, if not degree, with a failed system? This is not just Obama’s fault. This is a mindset that has permeated the country for forty or fifty years, maybe longer. There’s plenty of discussion in these books of the socialist and communist parties back in the 1920s in Czecho-Slovakia, as it was styled then, and how they came to control. Mostly because few people said “boo.” And look at us now, socialists running the place, thinking we’re all terrified, and some are I guess. But still, plenty of people here saying “boo.” Though, we had our Wilson and FDR to help along this mindset of “government knows best.”

Because what’s happening here is similar to what Martin Butora there called “Breaking the Spell.” The Czechs and Slovaks had to break the spell of socialism and big government. We’re having to do that now, with our government, with our socialist thinking that government knows best. This is the big national debate between the Tea Party on the one hand, and the Democrats, and many Republicans on the other.

Then Miroslav Kusy, speaking of this same sort of spell breaking said: “This is what we wanted to do as Charter 77dissidents [the declaration of civil rights against the Communist Regime, Kusy was jailed twice for his involvement], It was precisely our attempt to evaluate politics from a moral standpoint that constituted what [Vaclav] Havel called ‘the power of the powerless.’ And then there was the demand for “moral politics” that gave defenseless students, actors and intellectuals the power that won our ‘gentle revolution.’”

And well, OK, so that’s the Czech & Slovak part. But then, because I’m not without another fascination, namely my moral place in a society which doesn’t quite seem to think I’m too moral, I saw a different parallel. For no people define “powerless” like gay folks. In many ways, we’re like Czech and Slovak, and Soviet dissidents from the Communist era. We’re just treated with utter contempt by the government and many of the powers that be. We are truly powerless. To the point that we can’t even get rid of laws in Montana, Kansas and Texas, and who knows where else, that criminalize our smooching. Even though such laws have been declared unenforceable and unconstitutional.

Yet, just this past month the three states argued in their legislatures over removing the words, and instead the words were kept. Because the sort of apparatchiks that ruled Czechoslovakia, but masquerade as Fundamentalists here, and politicians of both parties too, have simply spent money to hold hearings to make sure the pointless words were kept on the books. Just for the fun of it, perhaps. For why would people argue to keep non-law on the law books? I feel that it’s just like the contempt that the Charter 77 people and all dissidents faced from Communists.

Except, well, we’re sort of in a perestroika and glasnost period on gay issues. And we “dissidents” are demanding a “Moral Politics” about us. And we demand that this government of ours, at every level, give us “defenseless students, actors and intellectuals,” albeit gay ones, the power to win our “gentle revolution.” For ours has been as peaceful as the Czechs and the Slovaks was. Mostly because the Czechoslovakian Communists couldn’t really bring themselves to just physically crush the 1989 protests. And somehow I don’t think even the most rabid fundamentalist, with the totalitarian communist instinct they have, of controlling people’s lives, has the heart to really physically stop us. And they certainly aren’t going to convince anyone else to do so, nor the government.

About all they’re left with is symbolic gestures of keeping pointless words on the books, as if that will solve anything. Or like Indiana, which is going through a three or four year process now of doubling the words of contempt towards us. It’s already law, now they want to put it in their constitution. As if that will stop us either. Why not just put “woman can’t vote” or “slavery is good” back in? No, I think this will soon all be like: “Bring me a complete list of all the idiocies we’ve managed to commit.”

And books will be written called “After the Velvety Gay Revolution.”


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