On Good Friday my husband and I attended the launch of an exhibition by local artists (both amateur and professional) against the plans to create American radar bases on Czech soil. The works were very varied in their approach, even if their message of no radar was consistent. The small exhibition space was full of supporters who clapped the anti-radar speeches, a short musical performance and a comedy sketch. This latter consisted of an “angel” in conversation with a Czech Everyman and proffering all sorts of American goodies – coke instead of Czech beer, hamburgers drenched in tomato sauce, a photo of a smiling President Bush and the radar. At the end of the event the caimpaigners queued up symbolically smash a clay model of the proposed radar, including some of the children who had watched, stomped and danced to the entertainment.
I was much reminded of those CND demonstrations of my twenties - the humour, the camaraderie, the belief that one had to do something. We believed then we could stop the arrival of the cruise missiles on British soil, and even if we couldn't that at least we should try. Of course we failed, but I wish the Czechs well. The Americans argue that the radar will protect the Czechs and the rest of us, but from what? The recent noises coming from the Kremlin leave no doubt how provocative Moscow finds the proposals. And anyone standing back and looking at the situation objectively can see why. Thank God, we have lain aside the politics and rhetoric of the Cold War, so why would the Czechs wish to poke the wounded Russian bear, having been so long prone under his paw?
These protestors have been dismissed and ridiculed by the Czech government and the Americans. But one thing strikes me - regardless of where one stands on the issue, surely this protest movement is a sign that this country is a democracy in which speech and thought is free. Such things should be cherished, they are what we all should fight for.