Václavské náměstí (Vaclav's square) to place candles and flowers beneath the statue of St. Vaclav on his horse. The Czech Republic mourned and the media declared that leaders like Havel were once in a lifetime, that the country would not soon see his like again.
Yesterday, in Pravo, Jiří Pehe had this to say about the President. "Jeho nejvýraznější kvalitou totiž byla schopnost, i během pobytu v politice, zpochybňovat „samozřejmost“ politického i civilizačního provozu a stavět proti němu odpovědnost." - His greatest quality was the ability, during his life in politics, to question what everyone else saw as obvious political and societal assumptions and to find a way to responsibly oppose them.
As a writer Havel understood subtext - how to read between the lines and see not only the face value of a story but what lay beneath it. As a dissident he saw just how easy it was to not force change, to not question assumptions, to say, "not now, it's not the time to act."
He acted anyway.
By acting on his beliefs, by writing about them, by helping to free an entire region from a very rigid set of assumptions, all while in the role of an everyman, Havel left a legacy behind him. It is this: there is no need to wait for a leader to take his place. We too, as everymen and women, can read between the lines and understand that just because something has been so for many years, it need not always be so. That there are ways to responsibly oppose assumptions. And that there never will be a better time than now.
In the United States today, there are certain assumptions that Americans hold to be true. Thanks to one of them, school rooms full of children were slaughtered last week by a man who should never have held a gun. The country grieves, and people come to place candles and flowers around the entrance of the school where the children died. But mourning is not enough. Now, I believe, is the time to remember the legacy of Vaclav Havel - to question our assumptions, and then to act.
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