Friday, December 23, 2011

A Moment In History

I'll be completely honest. Before I was planning to come to the Czech I didn't know much about the country. Sure, I knew it used to be called Czechoslovakia, and at least was aware that it wasn't that any more. However, the name Vaclav Havel didn't mean anything to me. I wouldn't say I grew up in a cave, but, except for when I was in Senior Soc in High School and wanted to win the daily trivia challenge for my team by knowing anything and everything that was going on in the world, I have never paid much attention to world events. I knew that the Clinton's daughter was Chelsea because she was a kid in the White House when I was a kid, and that had a sort of significance. However, when my husband asked me today what Obama's kids names are, I had no idea. I know there are a couple of them, and they're cute and little and apparently when he was first elected you could learn exactly what they ordered for school lunch on a daily basis, but I wasn't around for that and I didn't pay attention. I'm the sort of person for whom checking the news means seeing what my friends and family are up to. That is what matters to me. But sometimes there are things that happen in the world that make me stop and take notice. I just so happened to be in the Czech Republic at the time of something very significant in their history, the death of Vaclav Havel. He was a writer, a dissident, a peace maker and a politician. I can't say I know a lot about his politics, but I know he was a man that was respected the world over. He became the first president after the fall of communism, largely due to his part in leading them through the Velvet Revolution. There aren't a whole lot of examples of a total governmental overturn when there is no bloodshed. I'm not going to write some sort of serious memoriam. I really don't know enough, but I can tell you that when you see the response of the people to his death, especially in comparison to the insanity demonstrated by the North Koreans at the death of Kim Jong Il, you can see what sort of man he was. After three days of national mourning, today was his actual funeral. The streets were full of people who came out to give their respects, including the Clintons and Madeline Albright. Have to say, it was pretty impressive to watch the old Barracuda speaking in Czech at the funeral. The Czechs have made a mark on the world to be sure. So I end this now, with a couple pictures of the little candle memorial set up for him here in Marianske Lazne.

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