The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Václav Havel, R.I.P.

Today the world lost one of the great men of our time. Václav Havel was many things. He was a noted poet and playwright, a courageous dissident who spent many years in communist jails, the leader of the 1989 Velvet Revolution that freed Czechoslovakia from the tyranny of communist totalitarianism, the president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992, and the president of the newly formed Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003.

But more than all these things, he was a kind of prophet, a secular prophet if you will, but a prophet nonetheless. He was one who always spoke his mind and strove always to speak the truth.



Vaclav Havel -- Reuters Photo

"Genuine politics -- even politics worthy of the name -- the only politics I am willing to devote myself to -- is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility expressed through action, to and for the whole." - Václav Havel

Twenty years ago, when he was invited to address the United States Congress, he told the assembled politicians that “the salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart.” He went on to instruct his audience that "we still don't know how to put morality ahead of politics, science and economics. We are still incapable of understanding that the only genuine backbone of all our actions, if they are to be moral, is responsibility -- responsibility to something higher than my family, my country, my company, my success – responsibility to the order of being where all our actions are indelibly recorded and where and only where they will be properly judged."

And then, reminding our American political leadership of those great ones who came before them, Havel said, "When Thomas Jefferson wrote that 'governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,' it was a simple and important act of the human spirit. What gave meaning to that act, however, was the fact that the author backed it up with his life. It was not just his words; it was his deeds as well."

Wow! These are words our politicians don't hear very often. Of course, as we can see by their actions over the succeeding two decades, most of them ignored what Havel told them and rejected the challenge that he, in his own country, had so willingly accepted. He accepted the responsibility thrust on him to move his nation to freedom, while too many of our political leaders accept no responsibility at all with the result that we are moving in the opposite direction.

Here's some additional information on Václav Havel worthy of your attention:

Havel's address to the U. S. Congress (2/21/1990)

Living Responsibly: Václav Havel's View (in Religion and Liberty, 9/1998)

Václav Havel, the official website

Ironically, as I was writing these words, I received a news alert that Kim Jong Il, North Korea's totalitarian, murderous "leader", has died. And so today the world lost two men: one who sacrificed his own freedom and placed his life on the line to ensure the freedom of his countrymen; and another who sacrificed the freedom and lives of his countrymen to satisfy his own selfish ends. May God have mercy on their souls.



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