Saturday, August 07, 2010

How a cross brought Poland's establishment to its knees

No - President Komorowski, government, Catholic church top-frocks and cops were not on their knees in prayer. They were in such an ungainly position before a bunch of protestors outside the Presidential Palace, who said they would “defend to the death” the removal of a simple wooden cross put their in commemoration of the death of a president in western Russia.

Last Wednesday, the then president-elect, in agreement with Poland’s Roman Catholic establishment and national scout movement (responsible for the planting the wooden cross in front of the presidential residence after the Smolensk disaster) agreed that the spontaneous memorial to those who died should be moved to the nearby St Anne’s church.
Come the hour of cross removal, cometh the wroth of a couple of thousand Defenders of the Cross. They pushed against police lines; they shouted “Gestapo”, “Traitor” and “Communist” as the police pushed back. One woman grasped the cross, to be quickly disentangled from it. Cops fired tear gas from small aerosol cans when they thought the Defenders had gone a bit far.

See video by of as bad as it got - which was never that bad - below.

The result of what was a bit of push-and-shove by quite a small crowd of protestors? President Komorowski et al backs down and the cross stays where it is.

Who are those guys?

The self styled Defenders of the Cross - egged on by Lech Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw’s Law and Justice party - are a motley bunch of the ultra-religious, the nationalist, the anti-Russian, the alienated, the anomic and downright deranged.

Occasionally individuals possess all the above traits simultaneously.

For instance, one of the more prominent protestors is veteran cross defender Kazimierz Switon.

If the name sounds familiar it's because Switon - a one-time Solidarity activist, catholic fundamentalist, owner of his own little workshop during communist times, middle ranked trade unionist and post-1989 oddball - hit the headlines in 1999 when he went on hunger strike in protest at the removal of a small forest of crosses which had been placed outside the gates of the Auschwitz museum during a visit by John Paul II.

When authorities decided to remove the cross forest, Switon and fellow cronies went into action, blaming…the international Jewish conspiracy, of course, for wanting the Christian symbols removed from outside the Nazi Auschwitz death camp.

A news report from 1999 reads eerily like reports this week about the Defenders of the Cross.

“Catholic activist, Kazimierz Swinton, who led the campaign to erect the crosses against the wishes of the church's leadership, had mined the area to deter attempts to remove him. Swinton will now be prosecuted for the possession of explosives and inciting racial hatred after he distributed leaflets calling on Poles 'to wage merciless war on Jewish-Communist masonry, the biggest enemies of the Polish state’.”

Fast forward to 2010 and the now 79 year old Switon is back. Switon has been working alongside Leszek Bubel for many years, the leader of the nationalist Polish National Party, another attendee at Defenders of the Cross rallies in Warsaw.

Following the argy-bargy in front of the Presidential Palace on August 3, sent a letter, and email, on behalf of Bubel and the other Defenders to Prime Minister Donald Tusk.: “Despite the many protests […] at the instigation of Satanists you started a war over the Cross on Polish soil,” he wrote. “The Cross commemorating the murders [of Lech Kaczynski and 95 others] must stay in front of the Presidential Palace. If you start another war over the Cross then prepare for the end of your government,” Switon warned, spookily.

Weak elite

Of course, if you received a letter like that from a marginalised delusionist like Switon you would probably read it, have a chuckle, then throw it in the bin. But not Tusk, not the Church, not the Polish Establishment, terrified of the likes of Switon and the Defenders of the Cross.

President Komorowski had argued that a religious symbol such as cross should be in a religious place, such as a church. And he’s right. But Komorowski and the rest don’t seem to have the courage of their convictions. Terrified that they might seem insensitive to the view that Russia and other dark forces might have been the authors of the Smolensk disaster - that they were “murdered” - and scared that they might seem insensitive to a religious symbol, they backed down. Despite the relatively low level of support for the Defenders of the Cross, they sank to their knees in submission at the sight of the protests in front of the Presidential Palace.

Consequently, they have shown that Poland’s political elite remains as weak as it ever was. And unable to show authority and leadership, they have opened themselves up to all sorts of marginal groups who want to get even with the harbingers of modernity in Poland.

As all sides haggle over the future of the Smolensk Cross, the new power monopoly of President Komorowski-Prime Minister Tusk-Civic Platform party seems more like a rickety boat, vulnerable to cross-wind.


jannowak57 said...

What we have here is a political miscalculation on the part of our Political elites generated by simple inaction they walked into a trap cunningly set for them by Lech Kaczynski and followers. By not taking things in hand and having been seen organizing a dignified and suitably reverent removal of the cross, they came over as being the group that was simply and disrespectfully disposing of the no longer required object. Now they lost the high ground and can only react to events. If you think this has gone crazy, just wait until they try to remove the cross from Polish classrooms as some have suggested.

There are two Polands based on a cultural divide and these politicians have to be mindful of this because it takes some skill and cunning to allow for coexistence without conflict.
I have to agree with you the countries political elites looked like hapless idiots when confronted by the lunatic fringe.

ge'ez said...

The cross is a symbol of Christ's sacrifice.

To use it to symbolize Lech Kaczynski in any way is a means of establishing a cultish idolatry.

The only way to deal with the protesters is to outsmart them which should not have been at all difficult to do. But duh, go figure.

There was and is no way to organize a "dignified and suitably reverent removal of the cross," as suggested by 57. At least not during the day. No matter how dignified the move to a church, those blasphemers would have done and still will do everything possible to stage a bloody stink.

It still needs to be moved by surprise at night and even then there should be a guarding phalanx of priests and even a bishop of some sort (if one can be found to do what he should see as his duty) surrounding the cross as it is ceremoniously moved to the church.

And lots and lots of heavy duty incense. Maybe throw in some pot to burn so as to peace and love up the protesters who obviously need to be medicated.

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beatroot said...

Indeed, diving instructors is a big issue in Poland.

Anyway, Geez..."There was and is no way to organize a "dignified and suitably reverent removal of the cross," as suggested by 57. At least not during the day. No matter how dignified the move to a church, those blasphemers would have done and still will do everything possible to stage a bloody stink."

Of course there is a dignified way.

The warsaw top religious geezer agreed to move the cross. So they can organise a mass - a big one - outside the presidential palace...all the top religious, political establishment there...have a big Smolensk mass with live TV coverage from multiple angles, helocopter shots, the works.....then have Bishops lead the cross on a procession down to St Anne's square. Then dump the damn thing in there...and run for it!

ge'ez said...

They already had a/the big memorial Mass in Krakow.

And the narcissistic idolators will still make a big stink at a BIG Mass in Warsaw.

Look at how dissatisfied they are with the plaque just put up.

Nothing will satisfy them except their own martyrdom. Which I spoze does make them more Christ-like in a bizarre, wrongful, even blaspehmous way.

beatroot said...

I don't think you can can blame them for the reaction to the plaque. That was very dumb PRby president Komorowski. Two lowly officials unviel some crappy little plaque ain;t gonna passify anyone. It's almost provocative and has prolonged this sorry saga...

I think the establishment has played this whole game pathetically.

jannowak57 said...

Physically turn over the cross to the church / boy scouts. Use the police to maintain order with teargas and batons.

Democracies are fully entitled to maintain constitutional order with force.

beatroot said...

Of course. President Sarkozy would have sent in the tanks. But the government, church etc do not have the confidence to that. And that says something about them but also something more about the insecurity of the state in Poland in general. That's been a historical process which you can see now in this cross thing.

If the state can't believe in itself, how can you expect Poles to do it for them?

Anonymous said...

Have you gone mad? Do you even understand what democracy means? I think Poland has become anti-democratic. In the United States, a secular state, the President would dare tell anyone to remove a cross.

The seperation of church and state and democracy also means freedom of religion for everyone.

This is the "pseudo" European example of "democracy" that is, get rid of anything Christian, tolerate islamic extremism and point the fingers at the Christians.

The Youth in Poland are too interesred in blackberries, MacDonalds and MTV. Before they know it they will be a bunch of dull, culture-less, spoiled and effeminate little dweebs like the Swedes who are too afraid to do anything about the extremist Muslim fanatics in their country, who go against everything they supposedly stand for.

I hate the hypocrisy of the European Union.

I am 26 years old, I have a degree in higher education, and I know if I were in Poland I would be one of the defenders of the cross. I am not some burak and neither are a lot of these people.