Michael Gerson: Havel’s Revolution of TruthRoundup: Talking About History
Michael Gerson was a speechwriter for President Bush and is now a columnist for the Washington Post.
As the heroes of the Cold War walk off into the mist — Ronald Reagan, then John Paul II, now Vaclav Havel — each departure makes that world more distant and foreign. But it is too early for forgetfulness, which would also be ingratitude.
Once in a nightmare, European dissidents lived in prison, in whole nations that were prisons. They were confined to mental hospitals by governments sustained through the promotion of mass delusion. They were forced to make confessions of imagined crimes by regimes that were criminal enterprises.
And then the government of Czechoslovakia went a step too far. In 1976, it arrested a band called The Plastic People of the Universe for offenses against cultural conformity. This was a perfect symbol of communism: a system that could not tolerate the unauthorized singing of songs. The regime’s stupidity undermined its capacity to intimidate. Havel — a countercultural intellectual and rock fan — co-founded the Charter 77 human rights movement. Never has bad popular music been put to better use.
In history’s great refutation of historical pessimism, Europe’s nightmare turned out to be a “fairy tale” — a phrase Havel used to describe his experience. On Oct. 27, 1989, Havel was sent to prison for the fourth time. That December, 300,000 Czechs turned out in Wenceslas Square to chant, “Havel to the Castle!” By New Year’s Day, Havel could declare, “People, your government has returned to you!” In February, he addressed a joint session of Congress as the leader of a free Czechoslovakia. It was four months from prisoner to visiting president....
comments powered by Disqus
- Donald Trump Is Wrong on Mosul Attack, Military Experts Say
- Emmett Till memorial sign is riddled with bullet holes and has been repeatedly vandalized
- Posthumous pardons law may see Oscar Wilde exonerated
- Has an Election Ever Been Rigged in U.S. History?
- A short history of white people rigging elections
- Steven Runciman — historian, tease and professional enigma — is the subject of a biography
- Historian Eric Foner: Trump is Logical Conclusion of What the GOP Has Been Doing for Decades
- Ken Burns developing 'The Gene' based on Mukherjee's bestseller
- Does the 'Father' of the 1948 Ethnic Cleansing Narrative Really Want to Recant His Words?
- Max Boot wants to know “what the hell happened to my Republican Party?"