I’ve been meaning to post something about the death of Vaclav Havel. It so happens that he died the same weekend as North Korea’s Kim Jong-il.
It bothered me that the news focused so much on Kim Jong-il instead of the life and leadership of Vaclav Havel. Our own local newspaper is proof…
It doesn’t seem right that a person who caused suffering for so many should take top billing over a person who led a life of integrity and contributed positive ideas to our world.
I’m afraid to ask…but what does this say about our culture, about us?
Kim Jong-il – Over the last 17 years, known for leading a country with a depressing human rights record, and one of the world’s most closed and repressive governments.
According to Human Rights Watch, he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of North Koreans through widespread preventable starvation, horrendous prisons and forced labor camps, and public executions.
Further, “Kim Jong-Il will be remembered as the brutal overseer of massive and systematic oppression that included a willingness to let his people starve,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
Vaclav Havel was a playwright, political dissident and past president of the Czech Republic. He was the leader of the peaceful anti-communist “Velvet Revolution” and supporter of human rights.
The Clintons, who attended Havel’s funeral, called him a “towering figure in the world of human rights and a force for progress in Eastern Europe.”
“Havel inspired his people, and millions more across eastern Europe, to stand up for democracy and fundamental human rights in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch.
More about Vaclav Havel on this article by Newsweek/Daily Beast columnist and CNN contributor Paul Begala. Excerpt:
As the world struggles to make sense of the depressed and dark fiefdom that is North Korea in the wake of the death of its Dear Leader, let us pause to remember his polar opposite. If Kim Jong-il was dictatorial, sociopathic, and inhumane, Vaclav Havel was a freedom-loving, warm-hearted humanist…
…His life is testament to the power of politics at its best, a politics not of cynicism and power, but of truth and freedom. A politics that Havel described as “the art of the impossible.”