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Czechs Mourn The Death Of Vaclav Havel

From a mixed emotioned Reuters:

Czechs mourn "Velvet Revolution" leader Havel

By Robert Mueller
December 19, 2011

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czechs streamed in their thousands on Monday to write condolences and light candles in memory of Vaclav Havel, the playwright who became president after leading a "Velvet Revolution" to topple Communist rule.

A day after his death on Sunday at 75 from a respiratory illness aggravated by decades of chain-smoking, the government was to meet to agree plans for a state funeral likely to draw leaders and elder statesmen from across Europe and the world. There is some pressure to hold it this week, before Christmas.

Lines formed to sign condolence books at Prague Castle, the seat of power which Havel entered as president in 1989, just weeks after the bloodless revolt in Czechoslovakia and fall of the Berlin Wall announced the end of Europe’s Cold War divide.

Other books were to open in public buildings across the Czech Republic, as well as in Slovakia, which separated in 1993.

In Brussels and elsewhere, meetings of the European Union began with silent tributes for a man whose plays were long banned and who was repeatedly jailed after he launched Charter 77, which in 1977 asked the Communist Czechoslovak government to abide by its international commitments to human rights

An aide to Havel said those expected at a funeral, which many believe will be held before Sunday’s Christmas holiday, included U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, famously joined Havel at a Prague jazz club to play saxophone during an official visit in 1994…

Presidents Reagan and Bush helped to bring down the Berlin Wall. Bill Clinton played the saxophone. (Actually, worse than that, during much of his youth and even after he sided with the builders of the Berlin Wall.)

Havel died on Sunday at his country home in Hradecek, northeast of Prague, after a long respiratory illness. He had survived operations for lung cancer and a burst intestine in the late 1990s that had left him frail for more than a decade.

In November 1989, just six months after completing his last jail sentence, Havel led hundreds of thousands of protesters through Prague’s cobbled streets in a peaceful uprising in that was to end four decades of Soviet-backed rule.

Havel, whose political works for the theatre like "The Memorandum" and "The Conspirators" remain in performance around the world, became the face of a small nation and a symbol for many millions more in eastern Europe who demanded democracy.

He was president of Czechoslovakia from December 29, 1989 until 1992, and then of the Czech Republic from 1993 until he retired in 2003, when Czechs elected free-market economist Vaclav Klaus, with whom Havel had often clashed when Klaus was prime minister

Which is what happens in a real democracy. (And Mr. Klaus is an even stronger anti-Communist.)

Havel’s motto, "Truth and love will overcome lies and hatred," defined the revolution for many of the 10 million Czechs. But as the post-Communist years wore on, many quoted his words with sarcasm as enthusiasm for new freedoms collided with disillusion at state spending cuts and political corruption

Yes, some people would rather live ‘safe’ albeit miserable lives under a dictatorship, rather than to have to take responsibility for their own futures.

Fortunately, Vaclav Havel wasn’t one of them.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, December 19th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

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