JUNE 6 2015 14:57h

Misery and sadness

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Croatia
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I am looking at the sad image that has forever recorded the moments at St. Mark's Square where war veteran protesters are elbowing with the intervention police officers who were given the task to secure the implementation of law. I am reading the reports in which war invalid ?uro Glogoški is inviting the police to disobey the authorities and turn their backs on the country, so that Croatian mothers would not weep again. Croatian war veterans, Croatian policemen, Croatian laws, Croatian government, Croatian opposition... Misery and sadness.

A sad picture of Croatian society. People who defended Croatia, fought for the country in which we live today, gave their feet, hands, heart and soul for this country, have been protesting for months and living in a tent, and last week they have spent the night on the cold stone of the St. Mark's Church in the Upper Town and still most of the citizens of this country have no idea what they really want. They are probably no longer sure themselves why they are protesting. They are aware of only one emotion - they do not like the current government, they despise their sector minister and prime 
minister, and they would prefer that all these hateful figures had disappeared from the political scene yesterday.

I am looking at these photos on the front pages of the newspapers, I see the edge that has been reached and I'm glad that it hasn't been crossed over because after that nothing would be the same. I watch and wonder if everyone on these photos knows what they are fighting for, who they are fighting against and what they represent - the homeland or the state.

The ideal situation is when the notion of the homeland and the state is truly united and when the homeland that we love is a state that realistically and responsibly takes care of its citizens at the same time. But life is often something else and we love the homeland even when we are frustrated and unhappy, but with the very same breath and thought we curse and fret the state. Homeland is an emotion, and I, for example, admit that I always quiver when Tomica Bralić and Intrade sing "Let this crust of bread feed you, a drop of wine, a pinch of salt, let the rock be you pillow, but son, love Croatia..." or when Vice powerfully sings "This is your land, build your home here, here is the old foundation, here on this karst… strangers and the storms have tried to destroy it, but it is still here, as long as we are here..." It touches an inner cord that binds me to my Croatian homeland, which is the homeland of my grandparents, my late father and widowed mother, my nephews who are already programmed for the 22nd century...  I respect the state by paying taxes, although I do not like that, and by abiding the laws even when I do not like them... That's the point. Ivo Sanader, for example, also loved the song "Croatia I love you from my soul", just like me. He chose it for the "leitmotif" of 
one of his campaigns. I believe that it aroused emotion in him, as it does in me. He supposedly loved the homeland, but the state - he stole from.

The state in the political sense, thus, is not that poetic old foundation preserved on karst. The state is a rational, organized community that we create in full awareness so that we can protected the interests of each individual and society as a whole based on the rule of law. I have no doubt that Croatian veterans and the intervention police, who stood opposite them, love their Croatian homeland the same. However, the police on St. Mark's Square were defending the country, and Croatian veterans rose up against it by illegal protest. At the St. Mark's Square people who fought for 
Croatia's freedom and enabled us to have today's society and the state were demonstrating in an extreme way that for them the love of homeland and the respect for the state are not synonymous. 

They have despised the state when they decided to organize a protest outside the law and to strive to shake and bring down the legally elected government. In a democratic state, to make things clear, everyone has the right to hate the government, to want someone else to head the nation as well as the right to protest, but no one has the right to act against the law and expect it to be tolerated. The state simply must not function like that.

The first one to send this message to the protesters loud and clear was the first man of the Croatian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Želimir Puljić, when he said: "All citizens must respect the enacted laws. The veterans, who, as I said, can take the most credit for freedom and democracy in our society and the establishment of legislative, administrative and judicial institutions, must lead the way. After all, this is what they fought and risked their lives for..."The Archbishop summed up in three sentences everything that should have been said long time ago by different people. However, on the side that is aligned with the veterans' protest, his voice remained isolated. Surely, the President of the country had said that the law must be applied to all equally, however, in an opportunistic manner she did not concretize this thought in a clear message to the veterans that this applies to them also and that the fact that they are ignoring the law represents a blow to the state for which they fought, because the state is the rule of law. Not 
wanting to offend them, she failed to underline the point that Archbishop Puljić made.

But the Archbishop is not obligated to do anything, and the president probably feels that she does not have 
such freedom.

Tomislav Karamarko, however, understands that fine distinction between the homeland and the state and he knows that the rule of law is the foundation of democracy. Yet, he said that the law need not be applied to the veterans, because they are not, I guess, some kind of hooligans... It is an understatement to say that his statement is scandalous, hypocritical and manipulative! It is scandalous that such words were spoken by a politician who stands a good chance to become the next Croatian prime minister, and not a political marginal politician who wishes to draw the attention 
of cheap media by saying such nonsense. It is hypocritical that the illegality is promoted by a politician who once took an active part in the hunt for general Ante Gotovina, even though the majority of Croatian people and certainly Croatian war veterans, were against Gotovina’s extradition to the Hague Tribunal. He did it because he knew that the state relies on laws and not on an emotive sense of right and wrong. And in the end, his message is manipulative because it panders to people that he would like to have on his side but only and exclusively because of the elections.

Some may justify Karamarko's statement by the upcoming elections. Some will kindly say that all this passion and irrationalities will subside after the elections. But does this mean that the head of the HDZ is preparing a false political platform to win over the voters and that he will try to win their trust using this fraud? Ivo Sanader did this when he won the elections in 2003 on the basis of false promises that he would go to war with the Hague tribunal, and when he became the prime minister he did whatever was necessary, including an extensive cooperation with The Hague, in order to take Croatia into the European Union. Let's say that as a state we were lucky then, because had his opposition politics been honest, we probably would still have been in isolation. But let's go back to Karamarko and the statement in which he appeals that the veterans be exempt from law. If he was not serious, and he said that in order to manipulate a vulnerable group of people, then he is a politician without character, as, as it turned out, was the mentioned former prime minister.

If, however, he was serious, then we are talking about a dangerous politician who is willing to jeopardize the democratic standards that we have today. In any event, the situation on St. Mark's Square shows that for the further development of the Croatian society it is very important to have politicians who would be willing to protect the institution even if it wasn't politically profitable for them because in a given moment an institution was personalized by the person from the opposite political side. If we had such politicians, the situation with the illegal protest of Croatian war veterans would be unravelled relatively painlessly. 

Instead of the manipulation on the one hand and cowardly escape from the problems on the other, we would have responsibility for the state and a dialogue as a way of resolving the crisis. But this is not our story... Will the step forward taken by Archbishop Puljić change something?

 


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