Live by the sword, die by the sword

Czeslaw Ryszka

On the Feast of 3rd May President Bronislaw Komorowski strongly criticised the opposition, and actually all Poles who thought differently than him, that they were 'non-patriotic' and that they 'tarnished the sanctities.' In his main speech he admitted that 'his heart is painful' when he heard the words that were sacred for Poles, 'Restore our free Fatherland, o Lord!' sung 'against contemporary and in fact, free Poland.' He added that 'writing political slogans or politically motivated false accusations, which unfortunately happen more and more often, does not harmonize with the pride of our white-red banners.' He called such behaviours 'tarnishing the Polish sanctities and slandering the Polish state.' He pointed out that 'there should be no consent to destruction.'
On the evening of 3rd May President Komorowski gave an interview for TVP1 in which he called the above-mentioned behaviours 'language of hatred.' He said, 'We can have a dispute because this is democracy; let us have a dispute because Poland needs it. But hatred, the language of hatred, is a reprehensible thing, especially when such symbols as the cross, flag, common national traditions, are used […] One must not disregard such bad signals; one should react to them every day. Besides one should show such decent Polish celebrations.'
As I understand, President Komorowski referred to the events in Krakowskie Przedmiescie in Warsaw, which took place after the Smolensk plane crash every 10th of the month. He is not the only one that would like to have the commemoration of the victims of this tragedy, the biggest one after World War II, transferred to cemeteries and the solitude of churches. That's why I have a question: Do the legal parties and even single citizens in a free and democratic country have the right to use the national symbols to express a view that is different from the one of the government or of the President? And another, even more important question: Can this view or actually political vision of the state be critical towards the ruling party?
One can conclude from the President's quoted words that it cannot be so, that the authorities are due to ration the truth and also to instruct what is proper to say or sing, that sacred symbols should not be involved in political disputes. If it is so I ask, 'Doesn't the President himself use the national symbols to stir up contemporary disputes, for example by awarding the white eagle medals only on his supporters? And was it not the President who found the cross standing in front of the palace disturbing just after his election? Or I can ask differently: Was it not President Komorowski that allowed the struggle concerning the cross to happen and now he is shouting at Poles who began to defend this cross? The President concluded that the real problem of contemporary Poland were the mottos that were unfavourable towards the present authorities. And he announced that he would react to those bad signals every day. Does it mean that we can expect an administrative reaction to the views of non-orthodox citizens? They will be fined and then 'health paths' and finally - internments?
So far one has not been obliged to admire the present condition of the state and democracy in Poland. On the contrary, a critical attitude towards our state and the ruling party is the right and obligation of the opposition since otherwise it is not needed.
The President may feel pain in the heart, liver or wherever, but the citizens have the right to sing their own version of 'free Fatherland.' And so do they have the right to say that in contemporary Poland there is less freedom or more freedom that it was several years ago, which can be testified by numerous proofs, especially as far as the rights of the opposition and influence of the authorities on the media are concerned. The citizens have the right to express their indignation concerning the investigation into the causes of the Smolensk crash conducted by the Russians and to ask, 'Does the present politics towards Russia take into account our national interests?'
President Komorowski told us that we must not tarnish our sanctities. It means that the presidential authority in Poland and the government of the Civic Platform are sanctities. Such an attitude towards the rulers must have been obligatory in the Tsarist Russia and now is in Putin's Russia. But should we accept the Russian solutions?
Generally speaking, the choice of the national holiday of 3 May as a day of the President's scoldings of the opposition and of Poles having different views reminds us of the communist times when the 'anti-socialist elements' were rebuked for their 'non-constructive criticism' and instructed what they were allowed or not allowed to do with the state symbols, how they should use their constitutional - then fictitious and now endangered - freedom.
I am curious whether the politicians of the Civic Platform, including President Komorowski, will ever understand that the opposition is always anti-government, that the opposition does not embrace governmental propagandists. But if they cannot understand that and call criticism 'language of hatred' why don't they instruct their party colleagues, including Mr Palikot who belonged to them, and Mr Niesiolowski who has been with them since the beginnings, that those two have not used any other language except the one condemned by the President? But there is the saying 'live by the sword…'

"Niedziela" 20/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: