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Josef Banom: When "patriots" sing the Czech national anthem, I go cold

Prague, 31.8.2011 4:34, (ROMEA)
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"Deutschland, Deutschland über alles", German soldiers sang as they invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. They were patriots singing their national anthem, and they weren't afraid to lay down their lives for their homeland. It didn't matter that others died as well - they weren't Germans, after all…

History teaches us that the worst, most violent crimes are those in which the perpetrators do their best to excuse themselves as serving a higher principle. In the case of Christian and Muslim extremists, that higher principle is religion. In the case of neo-Nazis and racists, it's patriotism. Racists exploit an otherwise praiseworthy characteristic - love for one's home country - to play on their one well-known xenophobic note and promote the fear of those considered the enemy. In the case of the Czechs, the enemy has been the "inadaptable Roma" - and now it is starting to look like not only "inadaptable" ones, but all Roma.

The evidence of how effective the racists' manipulative media campaign has been was Friday's demonstration against "inadaptables" in Rumburk. Careerists and racists exploited the presence of one-quarter of the town's residents; their calls for a "solution" to the question of "inadaptables" played on the "patriotic" feelings of the 1 500 otherwise probably respectable people who had been brainwashed by an anti-Roma media campaign. They even sang the national anthem, degrading it to the level of a song by the neo-Nazi band Orlík. Does no one care that the anthem has been abused?

Friday's demonstration had nothing to do with any sort of legitimate protest against crime. Instead, it targeted all Roma generally. How else can we explain the shouts of “Gypsies get to work”, which spit in the face of all respectable Romani people? What is my father, who worked very hard all of his life in Bohemia, to think of this? What about my father-in-law, who paved the streets in Ústí nad Labem and the surrounding area for more than 40 years? What about that other relative of mine who is a policeman in Ústí nad Labem, or an acquaintance who works at a nursery school as a tutor? Or my other acquaintance, who works as the boss of a travel agency - or my niece, who is a manager in a telecommunications company?

What about all the other Romani people working in the Black and Decker factory in Trmice? Those people, even though their ethnicity is an almost insurmountable barrier in the Czech environment, are doing the best they can nevertheless. Are they also just "Gypsies"?

Shouting “Gypsies get to work” is not only a a mockery of them and the thousands of other Romani people who do work, it is also a mockery of those who would like to work but can't because there are not enough job opportunities - and because of the racist approach of Czech employers. Respectable people - and it's all the same what your skin color is - you must understand that you are becoming the tools of those whose ideology is that of interpersonal hatred and whose aim is to establish a fascist dictatorship, which is extremely similar to the dictatorship of communism. Czechs have experienced more than enough of both kinds already.

Friday's demonstration ended with no physical injuries, even though some people tried to attack a Romani residence. Thanks to the presence of the police, no one was injured. However, people are now asking themselves: What will happen once the police are no longer there? Will Judge Lynch be presiding in the Bohemia of the 21st century?

Gwendolyn Albert, Josef Banom, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Czech republic, Commentary



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