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Monday, December 19, 2011

Villain Versus Hero

Today all the news is about the timely death of Kim Jung Il and the murky mechanics of succession in the Hermit Kingdom. Somehow the death of a genuine hero goes little noted. Vaclav Havel, playwright, dissident, liberal lion, President of the Czech Republic and all around good guy left us on the same day that the corrupt tin horn dictator Kim drew his last unearned breath of the Earth's sweet air. Havel faced down the Soviet monster when it counted and went to prison for his efforts. His writing was banned and he was threatened with exile. Back then I was a member of Amnesty International thousands of members regularly wrote letters to the Czechoslovakian government pleading for the satellite police state to release Vaclav. They did release him for a while, re-arrested him and released him again. Totalitarian Marxist states were funny that way. They could be shamed into begrudgingly bowing to public pressure. Fascist police states just double down to prove how tough they are. Vaclav Havel actually has a good claim to the title of "the man who freed Eastern Europe". As author of the Velvet Revolution he recognized the desire of Soviet Premier Gorbachev's desire to reform Russia and end the Cold War. Poland was overthrowing their own Warsaw Pact government at the same time. Poland's change was driven by catholic resentment and industrial nationalism. Czechoslovakia's revolution was driven by liberal intellectuals and college students. I have heard writers who should know all about such things that Havel was the most important European after the end of WWII. We need more like him.