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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sixteen candles / Smoke gets in your eyes

Let's get this out of the way right off.

I am disgusted with Poland. You may have noticed that I've not written about Poland much lately. Frankly, I haven't written about much at all lately. But that's another story.

Poland is irritating. Poland at the moment is extremely irritating. Poland, in fact, just pisses me off. If I lived there now, I'd consider taking a very long vacation to Tahiti. Or Antarctica. Or the moon. I'm that pissed off.

The Poles, every last one of them, yes, let's just generalize and paint everyone with the same broad brush, after all, we do a good job of that here from time to time. "All Muslims are...." "Islam is...."

But this has nothing to do with that. No, this is still about Poland. And how a disturbing minority -- not really every last one -- of Poles are being manipulated by maudlin and outdated emotional hysteria.

As you remember, a plane crashed last April near Smolensk, in Russia, killing the President of Poland, his wife, many senior members of the government of all parties, military leaders, and family members of victims of the Soviet massacre of 20,000 Polish elite in 1940. It was a horrible tragedy. The entire country grieved. The entire country was in shock, and mourning, no matter their political inclinations. A state funeral was held for the President and his wife and the media was saturated with tributes and other appropriate means of inviting public involvement in the mourning process.

Within hours of the plane crash, dozens of Poles began doing what Poles do best, bringing candles in tribute, in this case, to the Presidential Palace. And being Poles, the candles were rather naturally assembled in the shape of a cross. No problem. Thousands of thousands of candles were eventually left there in a tribute to the late President.

And left there. And left there. And left there. The new President was elected. He moved in. The candles didn't move out. Sane, rational, respectful people suggested perhaps it was time for the cross of candles to be retired. Or moved.

Outrage! For one thing, the whole mess got bolloxed up with sentiments about the cross, a religious thing about the cross. "You would take away the cross?!" Sacrilege.

But most of all, the twin brother of the deceased President has stirred the emotions of a rump minority of conservative Catholics who protest without ceasing any attempt to move the candles. And this same twin brother, an unsuccessful candidate for President in the election to succeed his brother and the Parliamentary leader of the main opposition party, PiS -- and yes, there are jokes about its name -- is pretty much out of control. Accusing everyone who does not daily bow down in obeisance to the late Lech of emotional cruelty.

I feel for the man. It had to have been the greatest shock a twin could ever sustain. He has years of grieving ahead of him. It won't be easy.

But sadly, he has used his own mourning to manipulate masses of simple folks who see in PiS all that is traditionally virtuous --- patriarchy, anti-contraception, anti-feminist, myopic self-absorption, anti-European, anti-semitism --- in their country. And won't let it go. So the politics of Poland are paralyzed.

Nothing new there. But really. Enough already. There are roads to build, businesses to license and support, health care to reform, tax structures that need attention. But nothing is happening. Poland is stuck. Again.

As an American, of course, it's impossible to be haughty about one's country's political life. We're a mess as well. And irritating.

So let's be clear: there is not one thing we can boast of, politically, in relation to our Polish friends. But I can still be irritated as all hell. With a big mess in my backyard, why go off looking for another one across the sea?

So, for the moment, however much I do love Poland and admire so much of its sassy resilience, I'm not thinking I want to be like Poland when I grow up. In fact, I think it's time for Poland to grow up.

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