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Karel Holomek: Merkel vs. Putin? Outrageous

2.9.2016 7:30
Karel Holomek  (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)
Karel Holomek (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)

I frequently marvel at the values that are apparently held by a rather large number of people in the Czech Republic who make clear their hatreds and low instincts by protesting against God only knows whom (or why). I was most recently convinced of what those values are during German Chancellor Merkel's visit here.

The Chancellor met with both applause and jeers. I consider both to be the natural expression of the momentary feelings of those who follow what is going on in Germany and what they believe the Chancellor's work has been - although most of them know nothing about the actual situation.

These people hold the Chancellor responsible for actions and matters that have nothing to do with her. What is sad is that many Czech politicians confirm these people's attitudes even when they themselves could and should be better-informed.

If those politicians are actually better-informed and still support such ignorant reactions to the Chancellor, then that is a well-known display of populism, a tactic for winning the votes of precisely this part of the electorate. The soil of populism here is being conscientiously, straightforwardly fertilized by Czech President Miloš Zeman.

That's politics, and such things frequently go on as part of it. The actors in these matters are well-known and unashamed of their behavior.

The reputation of the Czech Republic suffers, though, when the wire services report, on the basis of the verbal displays of these demonstrators, that Russian President Putin is better-liked here than Merkel is. Banners reading "Führerin raus" demonstrated the opinion that she even deserves to be compared to Hitler.

The meanness of Prague Castle

Such a comparison is more than shameful with respect to a guest who has been honored many times, in an absolutely convincing and positive way, for unifying Germany and developing the EU. That accomplishment has meant an unheard-of development for our country, too.

Germany has long held the leading position as the strongest state participant in the EU. That's no small feat, even in the light of the criticism that can be
lodged against the Chancellor, perhaps justifiably, with respect to the rather serious situation around the growing increase of immigrants into Europe.

I consider it absolutely unnecessary to remind people of Putin in this context and to compare his favorable ratings to Merkel's - he has taken too many steps that are not just negative, but border on the criminal. What's more, the actions of the German Chancellor have been surrounded by many myths here in the Czech Republic.

Such myths have palpably arisen from the Office of the Czech President. When Zeman's spokesperson declares that "the President expressed the opinion that since Germany has invited these illegal migrants, Germany cannot transfer responsibility for them through refugee reception quotas onto countries that did not invite them," that is more than just playing dirty pool.

Such a statement is so tendentious ans to have nothing to do with reality. The phrase "illegal migrants" is in and of itself absurd, as Germany is taking steps against persons who break the law.

There has never been any "invitation" involved, either - what the President apparently means by an "invitation" is the gesture of good will toward legal migrants and the reputation of the good life that allegedly awaits every migrant in Germany, which the Germans cannot help. Anybody who succumbs to this imprecise, repulsive interpretation of events is themselves repulsive.

It is the populist politicians here who are responsible for this level of discourse. I have no compunction about saying that such populists are just duping people who are unable to listen to a description of the actual situation (and who sometimes don't even want to).

Of course, this, too, shows us the face of an open democracy in which the crystallization of opinions is taking place in such a degraded way. A strong society would be able to cope with such a state of affairs.

There is no doubt that Germany is just such a strong society and its Chancellor deserves no small share of the credit for its current state. That's what should be going through the heads of our embarrassing loudmouths when a figure such as Merkel comes to visit the Czech Republic. 

First published in the daily Lidové noviny.

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Angela Merkel, Immigration, Vladimir Putin , Xenophobia



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