Polish Foot in Mouth Syndrome
“You have very special and insane people sitting in the parliament,” began the e-mail from my Russo-German pal, with whom I spar on all things political, philosophical, and generally controversial. “But their insanity doesn’t match anything I’ve seen in Russia…”
I was shocked with his rather bold statement – but as I scrolled down, clicked on his links and surveyed the damage, I decided that, sadly, he was right.
It was the day after the U.S. election, and everything seemed to be rosy. I was still in the throes of my Obama-infused euphoria – but that bubble quickly burst. What started with “Yes We Can,” and finished with “Yes We Did,” suddenly turned into “Oh No He Didn’t!”
My friend, of course, was referring to Artur Górski, the PiS small-time politician, who thought the momentous occasion called for a statement filled with outrageous racist and bigoted overtones, leading unsurprisingly to a media frenzy shortly after, with: “Poland Condemns Lawmaker’s Anti-Obama Slur” and “Polish MP Slammed Over Racist Obama Remarks” amongst many cringe-worthy headlines that graced the pages of the world’s publications that afternoon.
Great. Arguably the most groundbreaking and momentous day in U.S. electoral history, and Poland managed to grab a slice for all the wrong reasons. Most governments rejoiced at America’s new dawn, and those who didn’t (and this is crucial) did so in private, thus avoiding humiliation.
Górski, however, cemented his place in white-supremacist folklore (Google his name and see) by calling Obama a “a black crypto-communist” and warning of “an approaching catastrophe that will end the civilisation of the white man.”
Then, perhaps somewhat confusingly, he stated: “Al-Qaeda will be rubbing their hands with joy because the new president chooses peace over war.”
Well, frankly, who isn’t? Maybe more importantly though, we should be asking why a man who campaigned in 2006 for Jesus Christ to be crowned King of Poland was allowed to speak at all.
Naturally, everyone associated with his party distanced themselves from the comments, with senior PiS politician Joachim Brudzinski considering disciplinary action and calling the statement “absolutely scandalous.” Similarly, President Lech Kaczynski said the remarks were “astonishing, unacceptable, and racist,” adding, “clearly neither I, nor the vast majority of the party, share views of this sort.”
Clearly? Well, not quite.
A few days later, news reports surfaced of more derogatory comments aimed towards president-elect Obama, in this case in the form of a racist joke heard in the halls of the Sejm. None other than former PM and PiS party head Jaroslaw Kaczynski was cited as one of the wisecrackers. Oh, Karma! You do choose the most inopportune of moments…
What is abundantly clear, however, is that Poland’s politicians and leaders have a responsibility, and right now they are failing miserably – letting down and embarrassing their citizens on an international scale. With homophobic, xenophobic, and racist remarks consistently coming from the direction of Polish officials, maybe the U.S. is not the only country in need of Change.
But outrageous comments by Poland’s top statesmen aside, let’s look on the bright side for one moment – because really, we haven’t much choice. As one of my colleagues at the Krakow Post noted, American journalists will have little to write about once the Bush era is over.
Thankfully, for writers in Poland there are no such worries in the near future. Because as long as politicians like Górski and his pals exist (and there are plenty), there’ll always be something to write about…