I love America and Americans - I have no reason not to - I am one of them. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I have a history, knowledge and experience far beyond the shores of this continent. And that is why it always irritates me, when I see well-meaning, kind-hearted Americans being taken advantage of by wily, deceitful, greasy and underhanded so-called "Europeans". Let me tell you about two examples - one local and one really high-level.
There is no secret about the fact that the Czech Republic and Slovakia are unable, 15 years after the alleged switch to democracy, to put into leading positions of their country people without a disreputable and dark past, without a communist resume, or with clean character. This goes for their diplomats and ambassadors as well. Let's just recall ambassador Rudolf Schuster, formerly a communist aparatchik of the highest calibre, first named by the infamous president Vaclav Havel as Ambassador to Canada, and after division of Czechoslovakia becoming the president of Slovakia. Seems like a pre-requisite to become an ambassador or diplomat was to have a communist past - names like Rita Klimova, Anton Hykisch, Jan Kavan and Eduard Kukan come to mind immediately.
They have an American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club here in Miami. I happen to know a number of people from there. They are nice, kind people, treasuring their Czech-Slovak heritage - even if it is often several generations removed. Now I am being told that they are preparing a Czech-Slovak festival - or officially "the First Czech-Slovak Heritage Days in Florida - 2005" - you can see the details at http://www.acscc.org/festival_121404.html
When I was browsing through the list of speakers I found the following "dignitaries":
Doc. PhDr. Boris Banary, CSc., Rector, Catholic University in Ruzomberok, Ruzomberok, Slovakia
Dr. Jiri Barta, Executive Director, VIA Foundation, Prague, Czech Republic
Prof. PhDr. Ivo Bartecek, CSc., Dean, Philosophical Faculty, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Doc. PaedDr. Michal Bauer, Ph.D., University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
Prof. PhDr. Vaclav Buzek, CSc., Rector of the University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice
Margita Fuchsova, Consul General of the Czech Republic, Los Angeles, CA
H.E. Rastislav Kácer, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the United States, Washington, DC
PhDr. Karel Konecny, CSc., Dept. of History, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Jaromir Marek, M.A., Correspondent & Chief of Czech Broadcasting, Radio Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
PhDr. Slavomir Michalek, CSc., Historian, Historical Institute, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia
PhDr. Dalibor Mikulas, CSc., Vice Rector for Foreign Relations, Catholic University in Ruzomberok, Ruzomberok, Slovakia
The Honorable Senator Doc. MUDr. Jaroslava Moserova, DrSc., President, Czech Commission for UNESCO, Prague, Czech Republic
H.E. RNDr. Martin Palous, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States, Washington, DC
Prof. PaedDr. Vladimir Papousek, CSc, Vice-Rector, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic
Ales Pospisil, M.A., Consul General of the Czech Republic, New York, NY
Doc. Ing. Josef Prusa, CSc., Rector, University of West Bohemia, Pilsen, Czech Republic
Prof. PhDr. Milos Trapl, CSc., Dept. of History, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Prof. PhDr. Jan Vicar, CSc., Dept. Of Musicology, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Linda Vlasak, B.A., former Program Director, Maryland State Arts Council, Baltimore, MD
Prof. Ing. Zdenek Vostracky, DrSc., Past Rector, University of West Bohemia, Pilsen, Czech Republic
Prof. RNDr. Zdenek Weiss, DrSc., Director, Materials Chemistry Center, Technical University of Ostrava, Ostrava, Czech Republic
Mgr. Miroslav Wlachovsky, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Slovak Republic, Washington, DC
(A short note for those readers not well-versed in the Czech reality - if any of those people above are over the age of 40, they simply HAD to be a communists in order to receive all those titles in then-Czechoslovakia)
I, of course, do not know what the above mentioned well-titled speakers will be talking about, but I am sure it will not be about their lifetime collaborations with communists in then-Czechoslovakia, about their past membership in the communist party or about how much they had to bend over to achieve all those titles and positions. I am sure that all of them will welcome the free trip and free meal in Florida, no doubt about it.
I have nothing but love and respect for the well-meaning third and fourth generation Czech-Americans and Slovak-Americans in the Miami club, but their naivete got the better of them this time. It is a shame to invite this roster of characters to their American heritage festival. It would be a shame at any heritage festival or celebration - Czech, Slovak or otherwise. It is akin to a Jewish community from Miami inviting Adolf Eichmann's children plus a few former SS concentration camp guards to Miami to celebrate Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur with them. That's simply not right.
The second example of Americans being bamboozled by East Europeans is really high-level. It about how Czech president Vaclav Klaus crashed a party and got himself invited to the White House.
Czech president Vaclav Klaus is a really despicable character. While he allegedly never was a member of the communist party, he mysteriously always enjoyed privileges reserved only for communists in totalitarian Czechoslovakia. Nobody can explain why - not even Vaclav Klaus himself. He was privileged enough to be allowed to study economy at university at a time when innocent people were jailed for decades in uranium mines, and he was allowed to travel to the West and even to study in the U.S. at a time when normal Czechs were dreaming (often futilely) about going on a vacation to communist Hungary's Balaton Lake.
Klaus had put the "rrrr" into arrogance and in spite of his anti-Americanism he would love to get some face time with an American president. Dubya never met him and after Klaus' derogatory comments about the war in Iraq his prospective visit to Washington was indefinitely put on the back burner and he was coldly ignored by everyone from the former U.S. Ambassador in Prague Craig Stapleton to the lowest level staffer that addresses the janitor at Foggy Bottom as 'sir'. It is no secret that Klaus was so verbally abusive towards the U.S. and it's ex-ambassador in Prague during their meeting before the start of the Iraq war that Stapleton simply up and left the meeting with the Czech president and slammed the door on him. Not a good omen, I would say...
This was no problem for a political snake the likes of Klaus. You can always count on American naivete. During the last meeting of EU heads of state Klaus could not get close to Bush, but in the closing moments of the photo session he simply forced his way onto the podium and stood next to a completely shocked and puzzled Bush. My sources tell me that Dubya had not the slightest idea who Klaus was and being a sociable and polite gentleman he shook Klaus' proffered hand. Klaus wasted no time and started talking to him in his famously broken English, about that he will be in Washington next week and that he would like to stop at the White House. At that time, Bush was under the impression that he was talking to Ivan Gasparovic, another ex-communist, but the president of Slovakia - to where Bush was leaving immediately for a summit with Putin. Therefore Klaus got a jovial Texas answer in line with "anytime you are in D.C. - just stop in to see me". He was not alone in his mistake. This is confirmed by the official White House web page, which identified Klaus talking to Bush as "Slovak president Ivan Gasparovic". Bush learned the true identity of this sneaky rat only after everything was over. Klaus on other hand let everybody know that U.S. president George W. Bush had just invited him to come on an official visit to Washington.
The week after that Klaus went on a "private visit" of the U.S. still unsure of if he will be able to pull the stunt off or not. Eventually, he was successful. He just crashed a party at the White House and got a 30-minutes visit with Dubya with pictures of them shaking hands and all that jazz... The media in the Czech Republic presented this shameful trick visit as a great feat of Czech diplomacy (oh, by the way, the Czech Ambassador is speaking in Miami next week as well) and ordinary Czechs were made to believe that Klaus was in America to give that yokel Bush some sound advice on how to properly run things...
So that's how not only ordinary Americans from Miami, but our president as well were bamboozled. What should have happened is that those annoying arrogant bastards from Prague should have gotten sorry asses kicked down Pennsylvania Avenue by the Secret Service and U.S. Marines - and not been allowed entry into the White House. That would happened if there was justice in the world.
But there is not - and we, as Americans, are just far too nice of a people to even imagine to what length some of those Easterners would go to take advantage of us...
So it goes...
March 11, 2005