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I was an American Ex-Pat living in Prague back in the early 90s, along with probably 20-30,000 other Americans. It was not long after The Berlin Wall fell and the Czech Republic was exciting, scary, changing, growing, building, and just starting to dip its collective feet into the waters of Democracy. It was June 6, 1994.

My most vivid memory that day was seeing a group of WWII-era tanks roll into Old Town Square on the 50th anniversary of D-Day. I was at first shocked, then in awe, then after a few moments a wave of American patriotism swept over me. At some point, perhaps an hour had passed, I finally broke down and wept.

I started thinking hard about what the Czech people had faced in their history. Prague is a Capitol city that has a 1,000+ year history. You can stroll the city and see reminders of the Renaissance and the Dark Ages; reminders of the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian Era; of rule by the Communists and being controlled by the Nazi's. It's all there in Prague. Around every turn of every corner, behind every monument, in all of the underground stations, and in every Communist-era theater. You see and live history. And through all of the various regimes and political ideologies, you see a people who have survived every incursion. They not only witnessed history, they lived and breathed it.

Tanks in Prague During World War II

I started thinking on that day back in 1994 that I was damn proud to be an American. Our soldiers in WWII were fighting for a cause. A tremendous CAUSE. They were fighting against the Axis powers, and they laid their lives on the line to defend an idea. That idea was democracy. A political idea that could be shared with the entire world. Sharing. That's a powerful word. It seems to be a word that many of us Pro-America American's embrace. But on some of these quiet nights, I truly wonder what the right thinks about this word. I really do. Do they grasp the significance of this one, small word? Do they understand what our position in the world, especially during WWII, used to be?

We were admired. Granted we entered into that war a bit on the late side. But could we be blamed? As a nation, we had already seen the horrors, up close and in vivid colors, of the first World War. But during that era; during that time of political upheaval, American stood for something strong and unflinching. We stood for one strong and central idea - that WE THE PEOPLE was not just an intangible thought. WE THE PEOPLE meant America - Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. We represented FREEDOM. From tyranny, from oppression, from ideals that shot from the foaming mouth of Hitler and his minions. We represented an ideal that millions of people gave their lives for, and so many people today take for granted. We stood up for other nations and loudly proclaimed that we had entered the war and we would not, WE WOULD NOT, turn back, or turn our back, on the people of the world.

With this in mind, I started thinking tonight about my first DAILY KOS post. It is a little after midnight and I am celebrating my 44th birthday alone, but happy to be sharing my small story with my fellow readers.

Tonight, I thought back to that day in 1994. I stood with a group of Czech friends and witnessed honest-to-God, actual tanks roll into the square. It almost looked like the a set that was dressed for one of the many films that were always being shot in and around Praha. We were all silent for a long time. I saw older Czech women and men, some who surely had lived during that era, have fear in their eyes. They had witnessed first-hand the horrors of the Nazi's quickly taking over their beloved town. But I also witnessed tears of joy that day when they realized that these were AMERICAN tanks. Amerika, they would whisper. Amerika.

And so, on this quiet evening, my thoughts go back to these remarkable, generous people who embraced me for six years while I lived amongst them as an American ex-patriot. Tonight, I glance at headlines on DK and on the Huffington Post; blogs on CNN and MSNBC. I channel-surf to Fox News and all the rest, and I am reminded what freedom truly can be. And what once was. And what is systematically, day-by-day, and minute-by-minute being destroyed by small men and women who THINK they understand what America is.

I am deeply saddened as I watch pundits and prognosticators, most often on the far right, tear apart the very fabric of Old Glory that these World War II soldiers gave their lives for. I am constantly, CONSTANTLY reminded of the famous line, and I'm paraphrasing,

"Those Who Forget History Are Doomed To Repeat It."

I live a quiet life on a small farm in Northwestern Ohio. I am surrounded by signs extolling McCain-Palin. Every time I drive into my little town I see the failures - and future failures - of the so-called 'thinking' of men like McCain and women like Palin. I won't bother to give them titles like Senator and Governor - in my eyes, as the mountain of mud-slinging grows, I simply see them each as two-word slogans: Country First. In my book, they have lost the right to be given any weighty titles of deference.

During World War II - FDR and the entire American nation probably never had in its collective consciousness that sophomoric phrase. Every school boy and girl realized, once the War effort began, that this was a GLOBAL war, hence the phrase WORLD WAR. Together, as a nation, as AMERICANS we set out out rid the world of a cancer. Of a political ideology so perverse, so dark, so severe that it surely scared even priests and seasoned politicians with decades of service. We set out to truly encompass the idea of WORLD FIRST.

Well, 'My Friends,' we have a new and growing cancer in America today. It is represented by the felonious rantings of people like Nancy Pfotenhauer and Michele Bachmann; by the lunacy of people like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan; and by the twisted minds of John McCain and Sarah Palin. And that cancer is in denial about one supreme fact: We Are Not Alone. The world is like the human body: it is one organism. One living, breathing, caring, despondent, gentle, strong, growing, expanding, contracting, wild organism. It is ONE. We are all connected, not to put to fine a point on it. And we need a President who, first and foremost, understands that point.

Sen. Barack Obama gets that. He gets that one undeniable fact: that, yes, of course, we want to put Country First and protect our interests and citizens, our ideals and goals - but in the final analysis - we are, ALL OF US, part of a bigger organism. We are all part of planet Earth. We have to learn to play in the sandbox with all of the other kids.

John McCain DOESN'T GET THAT. He is that petulant child who always seemed to cower in the corner, unwilling and physically unable to "Play Nice." He thinks he is a champion of America; but to me he is the champion of Anti-America. He is not FOR AMERICA. He is FOR CERTAIN AMERICANS. He is the patient in the hospital that all of the nurses dread, for today they just might draw the short straw and have to be his caregiver that day.

Old Town Square in Prague At Night

June 6, 1994. I wish you all could have seen the stature of our nation in the eyes of the Czechs that day. It was something to behold. And now, two weeks from the end of this Alice In Wonderland election - does anyone out there really believe that, as a Nation, we are seen with that same deference and sense of purpose by those same people's and countries today? Does anyone truly believe in their heart-of-hearts that John McCain really still isn't that angry kid standing alone in the corner? If you do, I understand. Not everyone had the amazing honor and opportunity to witness what I did. But I hope you will think long and hard about one thing as I end this diary: we are now in the 21st Century. The world has entered a new century. As a nation, what are we ready to stand for again, and who will we ask to stand for us??

Deep down, ask yourself this question: Is John McCain honestly the leader you picture standing on the dais addressing the WORLD'S POLITICAL BODY, the United Nations? And at this late hour of the election, can we really believe that this 72 year old, unrepentant man now wants to "play nice" with the world? ONE WORLD. You either get it, or you don't.

Originally posted to The Ohio Bookseller on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 12:38 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Happy Birthday! (11+ / 0-)

    except you gave a present to us, by posting such a beautiful diary!  Thank you -- and you really should put up a tip jar!

    (Sadly, in Kathmandu no longer.)

    by American in Kathmandu on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 12:45:24 AM PDT

    •  Happy Birthday x2! (9+ / 0-)

      I visited Prague in 92...  what a beautiful city!

      At the time I was proud to tell people that I was an American - and I had no fear that anyone would treat me poorly simply because of my nationality.

      I sincerely look forward to feeling that way again.

      Dammit Senator... just when I get all cynical, there you go giving me hope again.

      by Jimmm on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 01:00:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You can feel that way again, Jimm. (7+ / 0-)

        I know it's possible and I've seen it all over the world. I've traveled from the western tip of Ireland, Dingle, to a tip of Scandinavia in Helsinki, and I tell you Jimm: the world wants to be proud with us. We have stood for dreams and ideals, for greatness and open dialogue all over the world. Maybe some of that's now in the past - but we CAN be great again.

        But we can't, we CANNOT do it alone. In this new century, we simply cannot believe that a demagogue like McCain will somehow magically force this issue upon the peoples of the world simply with fear and intimidation and somehow our nation will be better off.

        That's my main point: we are ONE WORLD and we need a leader who get's that. We need a leader who, at the very least, understands that the world must, once again, work together, if we're to avoid fiasco's like the financial crisis we're currently in.

        I know you'll be able to feel that way again, Jimm. I know it in the very fiber of my being, because I have lived it. The world, right now, is on a precipice and hard decisions must be made. If we're to salvage any remaining goodwill towards Americans, the choice is clear.

        It's your choice, and my choice; it's the choice for millions upon millions of people on November 4th.

        At the time I was proud to tell people that I was an American - and I had no fear that anyone would treat me poorly simply because of my nationality.

        Right now we have to ask ourselves: if I were to go to visit Prague or Kathmandu, Berlin or Moscow, Baghdad or Kabul. If I were to visit the countries of the world, whether that number is 193 or 266 (it's always open to debate) - how would I be treated when the people of the country see a President McCain. How would I be treated when they see a President Obama.

        That's all you need to ask yourself.

        •  Here in Prague (0+ / 0-)

          Where I've lived for the last 16 years I usually get either anger or pity when someone discovers that I'm an American.

          No, I don't wear a lapel pin.

          I've had strangers confront me in parks with angry tirades about how unsafe we've made the world. All I can do is sigh and tell them that I didn't choose to put shrubbery in The Oval Office.

          Of course, the Czechs now have a president who is something of an idiot too but at least he's not responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people.

          At this point in my life I try to take pride in the things I can really take credit for. My place of birth is not one of those things. And really, during the last few years, there hasn't been a lot to be proud of. So, I've emotionally distanced myself from the temptations of nationalism. McCain still spouts that America is number one and then lists a half a dozen items where America actually falls short of the number one slot. The greatest nation on Earth has an infant mortality rate that is going up?

          My hopes are on Obama.

          •  In Prague when the Russians left... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Marko the Werelynx

            And, because folks can tell an American on sight
            folks were hugging me for the simple reason that AS AN AMERICAN
            I represented the freedom they themselves
            had just attained.

            Just the whiff of becherovka brings it all back

            But those days were taken away,
            as the NeoCons cashed in our legacy of freedom,
            truth, and awareness of our place in the world.

            As OhBooks says, one world.

            We have a long way to go to regain our soul,
            and our place in the world.  This isn't about nationalism,
            chest bumping, flag wrapping, in-your-face-shocking and awing,
            but the humble and quiet gentleness - and determination - of truth seeking
            and honesty and compassion.


    •  Thanks so much for the Happy Birthday wishes. (7+ / 0-)

      The tip jar is up and I've added a few photos to the Diary - thanks for reminding me.

      Kathmandu? That one word alone makes me think of an ethereal, timeless, floating city in the clouds. I profess to know nothing about that wonderful-sounding place. It's making me going to wikipedia right now! (big smile). Thank you.

      •  wonderful place, even better people.. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ekaterin, Marko the Werelynx

        I had the bittersweet reaction of seeing how saddened and hurt - not angry, it was more a sense of betrayal -- many Nepalese were after the Iraq War started.  They generally like the US and Americans.  It was a painful time to be there in that sense, but nothing will ever make me regret the years I spent there.  You must go sometime if you ever, ever have a chance!

        (Sadly, in Kathmandu no longer.)

        by American in Kathmandu on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 10:23:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What an outstanding diary! (10+ / 0-)

    Thank you for sharing this powerful experience. I believe Barack Obama will restore America's stature in the eyes of the world, and in the eyes of Americans who have been so disillusioned by the past eight years.

    Happy Birthday to you!

    Please post a tip jar.

    There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity. --Tom Peters

    by Ekaterin on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 12:47:21 AM PDT

    •  What an outstanding reply! (4+ / 0-)

      Thank you. Simple words, but they mean so very much during dark days like these. Thank you.

      A tip jar has been posted per everyone's recommendation...

      I really appreciate the birthday wish. And today, on that birthday, I'm spending it on DK. I couldn't have asked for a better gift.

      It's strange. I'm generally pretty quiet and private, but something took over my thoughts last night. Something deep down inside me MADE ME write that post. It was like food and air - I had to write it.

      I am just overwhelmed by the kinds thoughts and words expressed in reply and I sincerely hope that many others will see this post and respond.

      I can only say in closing that somehow I really didn't understand what it meant to be an American until I lived abroad. I never fully embraced our unique sense of purpose and self, of our deep connection to the rest of the world. I never understood how many peoples of the planet look up to our sense of optimism and our desire to positively lead.

      It now comes down to two thoughts: who is the best person to lead America, and her ideology into this new century? Who will help regain our stature in the World?

  •  Happy 44th, you young whippersnapper ... (12+ / 0-)

    ...nice Diary.

    I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land. -- Mark Twain

    by Meteor Blades on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 12:53:17 AM PDT

  •  I was in Prague once, my visit overlapping (10+ / 0-)

    New Year's Eve, maybe 8-10 years ago.  Our hotel was very close to the huge Jewish cemetery, and I walked there early one foggy morning to find Kafka's grave and to take photographs. I loved Prague, but I saw few happy people; at least I saw very few smiling people. I didn't like the gray apartment buildings built by the Russians.  The very, very old Jewish cemetery with its incredibly close, pulled up headstones and tiny WWII museum and the 1000's of names of the dead written on the walls, the room with the pictures the children had drawn in the death camps -- all had a profound effect on me. The bridges, the clock in old town, the shops selling glass, the ancient castle above the city, the fishermen working their lines in the river -- these all run together for me.

    Sorry, I just got carried away thinking of Prague and am too tired to comment on your fine diary. I did very much enjoy it, however. Thank you.

    •  The Czech People Sometimes Laugh Hardest! (5+ / 0-)

      You know, it's interesting that you mentioned seeing few smiling people during that trip. That's not too uncommon. The Czech people are some of the most reserved people on earth sometimes, in public. Well, as they walk the streets at least.

      But the Czech people, in general, are also fun-loving and completely outgoing when they get to know you. I made friendships there that I am sure will last a lifetime. And these friendships mean something. As a nation, Czechs really suffered through horrors we can only slightly imagine. One look at that Jewish cemetery will shed some light on that. Their country had to suffer decades of the indignities presented first by the Germans and then by the Russians.

      But you know what? They survived. Humor had a lot to do with that according to my friends. Sometimes the craziest, small joke would make an entire room just crack up laughing. I witnessed that on so many occasions living there. They figured out ways to cope, and thrive.

      On my first day in Prague, as I, too, walked the streets and witnessed those oppressive, Stalinistic ugly, ugly buildings (they're called panalaks in the suburbs), I thought: How could any people survive this? But they did, and they became stronger.

      And we can become stronger as the threads of Democracy are constantly being pulled away from us here in America. When we take a stand; when we stand up for those in America who would casually be run over for fear and hate mongering and the machines of the right; when the Republican tanks start to roll into the hearts and minds of a fearful Nation, we can stand up to them and point to history and gently remind them that all of this has been tried before - by people with far stronger methods and far greater amounts of hate ... and they failed. The Third Reich failed. The Communist's failed. Sorry, I had a quick side rant; back to the story so to speak.

      But really, I know Prague has the Kafkaesque feel to it, and that Dickens dreariness sometimes - especially in the architecture. But beneath the cobblestones and cold facades, you only have to meet and talk with a real Czech and you will be amazed at how they view their lot and life in the world. You will feel humbled and shamed, proud and patriotic all at the same time.

      The Czechs do laugh, trust me. Go into a true Czech subterranean pub anytime. Learn a little bit of their language and use it with them, and new world's will open up for you. And you will hear laughter that will instantly make you believe that these people know how to have a good time. These people have figured out a way to not only survive, but to thrive!

      •  Thank you for your earnest reply. My winter (3+ / 0-)

        visit to Prague has, perhaps obviously, always haunted me; and I've always wanted to return to that city in the spring. The  weather was bitter when I was there, the trees bare, and I realized, even then, the bleakness was coloring my perceptions. I have always wanted to return to Prague and see its beauty again, part of my feeling steming from the fact it's the only major European city that escaped the bombing of WWII: I will go back one day.

      •  For further proof, just look at their art. (2+ / 0-)

        Czech literature and film is some of the funniest out there, even if the humor is often dark, dry, and cynical (which is part of what I love about it).  

        The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek is a classic. But as far as literature goes I love the warm humor of Karel Čapek best of all.  In film, anything by Miloš Forman before he moved to the States.  Not that his English films are bad (at all!), but his Czech films are definitely Czech, and very very funny.  Fireman's Ball is what nearly got him kicked out of the country for its vicious satire.

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 12:33:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  spent over five years of my life overseas... (8+ / 0-)

    ...and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't ask my self the same question you posed tonight in your diary. No, if I were the leader of a foreign country, I would not like the prospect of sitting across the negotiating table from a president McCain-or a president Palin, should McCain decide to take a premature, permanent dirt nap.

    Those cold, calculating, heartless, snake-like, steely eyes send shivers down my spine. I swear that man has issues that he's not revealed. 10,000 pages of medical records. One hour for the press to go over them. My guts tell me he's hiding something BIG from us, and he knows that when we find out, his hopes for the presidency are toast.

    America is making the biggest mistake it has ever made, besides W, if it elects him.

    "Great men do not commit murder. Great nations do not start wars". William Jennings Bryan

    by ImpeachKingBushII on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 01:21:31 AM PDT

    •  Cold, calculating, heartless, snake-like eyes... (3+ / 0-)

      ...and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't ask my self the same question you posed tonight in your diary. No, if I were the leader of a foreign country, I would not like the prospect of sitting across the negotiating table from a president McCain-or a president Palin, should McCain decide to take a premature, permanent dirt nap.

      You know, this small paragraph pretty much sums things up for me. I instantly started thinking about what you said, and shivers came to me, too.

      We are a Nation known for making mistakes. That's how we lived and learned throughout history. Some mistakes end up being happy mistakes. Some end up being horrendous mistakes. To me, I share your sentiment about the idea of a President Palin sitting at that table. I can envision smugness and righteousness actually dripping from her lips as she spews lies covered in a sugar coating. Probably with sprinkles on top to boot. She would be a monumental mistake that would scar not only the USA, but the planet, for decades, perhaps centuries to come.

      That one thought scares the hell out of me more than anything else I have seen in this election. Is this who we really want to be sitting across from International leaders? John McCain or Sarah Palin?

      Is this what who we imagined as we spent endless hours in our history classes during grammar school, and Junior High, and in High School learning about American patriots, and Founding Fathers' intentions, and leaders of our time?

      Mistakes have one wonderful and underlining principle: they can be corrected. But the stakes are just too high to make this one, fundamentally bad mistake. We cannot, the World cannot afford to make this mistake, because unlike others, it cannot be changed. Once done, it's done.

  •  Thank you for this wonderful (7+ / 0-)

    perspective of history, and happy birthday!  I have a significant other quite a bit older than me who stood on the street of a city in Poland in 1939 and watched the German Army enter his city.  He was an 8-year old Jewish boy.  His story of surviving the Holocaust is too long to go into here, but just knowing and loving him I have come to understand what America has meant to the world and to the individuals who were lucky enough to come live here.  

    As I'm sure you have, I have a deeply felt sense of the American ideal around the world and even deeper sadness at it's near total destruction.  The world sees our current leaders' arrogance, our financial system's destructive greed, and on and on and on.  I have cried often because of this.  

    I pray that Obama wins and lives up to his potential to be a great leader not only for America, but for the world to see, once again, the noble ideals of the America that once was.  


    I can kiss my retirement goodbye, the crisis just ate it.

    by kathika on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 01:24:42 AM PDT

  •  Welcome to the 44 club! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, cfk, Marko the Werelynx, redtex

    And happy birthday, glad to have you amongst us!

    For some reason, I've always had an affinity for what is now called the Czech Republic and Prague, and hope to be able to visit there someday. Lucky you!

  •  The forthcoming election (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, cfk, Marko the Werelynx, redtex

    is probably the most important political event this planet has seen to date.  A failure now could easily see the world community descending into a snake pit of endless war, food/energy starvation and ecology collapse. The responsibility huge is :)

  •  I would imagine that many Czechs... (10+ / 0-)

    who saw those tanks flashed back to the Prague Spring in '68. That would have been in the living memory of many people.

    Oh, and Happy Birthday too!

    If Sarah Palin can deal with Russia, why didn't she stop the invasion of Georgia?

    by Shiborg on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 01:51:18 AM PDT

    •  Remembering the Past (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, pico, Marko the Werelynx

      I would imagine that many Czechs who saw those tanks flashed back to the Prague Spring in '68. That would have been in the living memory of many people.

      Absolutely true. Tanks had a funny way of showing up throughout the history of Prague and especially during the uprising in 1968. And I remember another event close to the 50th Anniversary of D-Day.

      In another part of Prague a film was being shot that featured Nazis and World War II. Everywhere you looked, you could see German tanks and soldiers in full costume. It was said in the daily newspapers that some older Czechs actually thought the Germans were invading again. They truly believed it to be happening, since it had happened so many times in the past.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes. I appreciate that very much!

      29 Aug 1968, Prague, Czechoslovakia --- Russian Tank Arouses Interest In Prague Czech Crisis 1968 --- Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

    •  My mom was there... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marko the Werelynx

      she was working at Charles University at the time. Afterwards, she was not supportive enough of the glorious brigades of the proletariat that had come from Russia to save the Czechs from bourgeois revisionism, and so lost her job in academia.

      My dad was working in Germany for the summer, getting his first taste of the west. He came back 3 weeks later: a tough decision in favor of his family, finishing school, etc. He realized he made a mistake when he stepped off the train.

      Two years later my parents met, three years after that got married, another two years my sister, and yet another two years later made it out through Yugoslavia and Greece. I was born in New York.

      •  I was there in 1989 when it was all reversed. (0+ / 0-)

        I was an exchange student at the University of Padova, and with a bunch of Italian students I got a visa to go up to Prague. We drove through the Alps into Austria (Linz, I believe) and straight through to Czechoslovakia. Amazingly, the Italians were taking part in the Velvet Revolution as much as the Czechs. I watched and tried to stay out of the way, but it was beautiful.

        Look at these people! They suck each other! They eat each other's saliva and dirt! -- Tsonga people of southern Africa on Europeans kissing.

        by upstate NY on Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 10:37:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well said; and happy birthday (6+ / 0-)

    from another East European type (Estonia in my case.)
    I'll wager there were some mixed feelings among the Czechs seeing those tanks. Reminders of '68? Were some of the folks from Pilsen and remembering American tanks reaching there in 1945 (Patton wanted to go on to Prague.)?
    Great diary.


    PS. Czech bonus points from 1968, Prague spring, nightclub jokester.

    Brezhnev, Mao Tse-tung and Alexsander Dubcek (Czech leader in '68) are all on the same plane that crashes. By some mistake all 3 end up at heaven's gate before St. Peter. Peter knows at least 2 have been sent to the wrong place but he's going to be fair. He asks all 3, "IF you had 1 wish back on earth what would you wish for?"
    Brezhnev: "I would wish for an earthquake that would flatten China."
    Mao: "I would wish for a flood that would devastate Russia."
    Peter's thoughts are confirmed, but he turns to Dubcek and asks him the same question.
    Dubcek: "Well, if you've already granted those other 2 wishes, I would wish for a cup of coffee."

    "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

    by WineRev on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 04:27:11 AM PDT

    •  Mixed Feelings (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Marko the Werelynx

      I'm sure there were quite a few mixed feelings, but during that time, back in 1994, Americans were seen with different eyes. There still was a sense of awe with what we helped to do during that war. As an ex-pat living there, I was treated not only with some curiosity, but with a sort of deference quite often.

      There was a respect for us when we talked to average, ordinary Czechs. What we stood for was respected. Not that it was some sort of Democratic Cake to be eaten by all. But the fact that we had stood strong against oppression and evil doctrines during dark times.

      America had stood up for the Czechs, and Poles, and the English and French etc etc. We stood up for what was right. And there we were, a few short years after the fall of the wall, visiting their country again.

      Now, I'm not viewing Prague in 1994 with any kind of rose-colored glasses. Americans invaded the town that summer. It was the place to be for fashionable backpackers. And after a while, I know the Czechs started to show quite a bit of animosity and hostility toward the invading horde of Americans, probably just as they had done with the Germans and Russians.

      But in my situation, I had the chance to go all over the country and in many places, English simply was not spoken. At all. I had learned Czech to a degree and traveled with my Czech friends and, outside of the Capitol city, we were almost always welcomed with open arms and many, many questions about what America was really like.

      And in my years of living in Prague, I lived with my best friends Czech family. They only spoke Czech. And we lived in a dreary panalak in Prague 10. A working-class neighborhood. So I was able to interact with ordinary folks on a daily basis. And I'm telling you - the difference between how Americans were perceived then and now is a vast chasm. We have lost the lustre, so to speak.

      We have lost something that is on the brink of disappearing forever. And if I am to ever return to my beloved city, changes will need to be made, from the top down.

      And that all starts with the decision we make on November 4th.

      Thanks for the wonderful joke. That is so typical of the Czech humor. People just don't know what a magnificent sense of humor Czechs have! You have given me the perfect birthday gift!!

    •  I was in Estonia in 2000 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marko the Werelynx

      less than 2 weeks before 9-11. The Estonians were still wrestling with the question of what to do with the ethnic Russians who made up ~35% of the population, many out of work & only still there because they literally had noplace else to go. My understanding is that they're doing much better these days (or were before The Crash). I hope so--I don't think I've ever felt more uneasy anywhere in Europe than in Tallinn outside the touristed downtown, or Paldiiski (where 5,000 mostly Russians lived in grim Stalinist 10-story walkups with no jobs to speak of since the Soviet submarine school closed). Tartu, however, was quite charming--the kids were just coming back to the university & the town was one large party...

      May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

      by Uncle Cosmo on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 09:25:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Happy BD, youngster! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, cfk, Marko the Werelynx, redtex

    This is a great first diary.  I learned a lot and was reminded of things I had forgotten.  Looking forward to more from you  :-)

    -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 04:32:57 AM PDT

  •  happy birthday (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, cfk, Marko the Werelynx, redtex

    It's my birthday too. I wish I had an eloquent diary floating around in my head like yours!

    •  I'm not sure where this came from. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Marko the Werelynx

      It's my birthday too. I wish I had an eloquent diary floating around in my head like yours!

      I'm not sure from whence this came last night, but I so very glad that it did. Thank you for the kind remarks. I am very appreciative.

      Happy Birthday to you, too!! Enjoy yourself, go wild, let the ideas flow, and whatever else you do, treat yourself to a nice day...

  •  Thanks for this (4+ / 0-)

    We need to not forget that this election has implications all over the world. With Obama, we become the America we're supposed to be; with McCain, we don't. It's that simple.


  •  Happy Birthday. You are not alone. (3+ / 0-)

    On my birthday Obama gave his speech on race. That was a fine birthday present.

    I don't know a thing about economics. But, from my view of gut feeling, this economic crisis was not brought on JUST by the greed of Wall Street. It is bigger than that. The multinational corporations were trying to make this world into their world. At some point they lost control. The playing field was too big and they lost the ball.

    I remember standing in front of the TV in 1989. Crying as the Berlin Wall came down. America could have begun a decade of respect for other nations. It did not.

    Now, it is up to Obama and average Americans to reach out to the world. Not to control. Not to demand. But, to get to know one another. Appreciate one another. Celebrate the diversity.

    This is what McCain/Palin and their mob are scared of in this race. They only want to make other people like them. They cannot step out of their narrow world.

    Sarah Palin is McCarthy with lipstick.

    by redtex on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 06:35:04 AM PDT

    •  You are not alone. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Marko the Werelynx, redtex

      Now, it is up to Obama and average Americans to reach out to the world. Not to control. Not to demand. But, to get to know one another. Appreciate one another. Celebrate the diversity.

      This is what McCain/Palin and their mob are scared of in this race. They only want to make other people like them. They cannot step out of their narrow world.

      redtex, your words say it all. In no way could I make that thought more eloquent. Well done!

  •  Tip Jar. (6+ / 0-)

    I'm not at all sure this is how things are done, but I'm leaving a tip jar. Thanks for the suggestion!

  •  A wonderful diary...thank you (2+ / 0-)

    My niece visited Prague a couple of years ago once in winter and once in the spring since she had a friend who was a student there.  Her pictures were

    I will put the addy of your diary at Bookflurries: Bookchat, tomorrow evening.  I am reading To The Castle and Back by Havel and I will be quoting him in the diary.

    I suspect you might have something to say having been on the spot and you are very welcome to come by. :)

    Happy Birthday!

    Usually the tip jar goes in the first comment, but it is fine wherever it ends up.  Hopefully, you will write again.  

    The only way I can travel these days is vicariously so I appreciate anything like this one that comes my way...thanks!

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 12:45:58 PM PDT

    •  You are most kind and gracious. Thank you! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Marko the Werelynx

      Hello cfk,

      What a terrific response! Prague has always been somewhat of a mystical and magical place. You can't help but feel the threads of history every way you turn there - it's truly a unique Capitol city. I'm sure the pictures from your niece were wonderful and even as an Armchair Traveler you can always feel just a little bit of the wonder of that country in every photo you see.

      I'm completely new to understanding the machinations of this site and did not understand how the tip jar worked. I appreciate your enlightening me. Again, many thanks!

      I must say I'm so green here that I'm not at all sure what you are referring to when you say Bookflurries: Bookchat.

      Can you let me know how to find that? I'd be happy to drop by. Well, that's all for now. It was nice hearing from you and about our Prague connection!!

      •  sure (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Marko the Werelynx

        Around 8:00 PM EST on Wednesdays, I publish a bookchat diary.  This will be number 108.

        This week's title is: (since I prepare it early)

        Bookflurries: Bookchat: Stories Create the World

        I have a theme and a poll each week only to get discussion started and people mostly just skim down and put whatever they are reading or hoping to read in comments.

        We end up with a long list of books that we hope to read.  I have over a 1000 so I am going to have to live forever, I guess. :)

        Here are past diaries if you wish to take a look.  You have to click on "There's More" to see the full diary.  

        We stay for quite a while, 10:00 or so, and I check comments for the next couple of days.

        I hope you can stop by. :)  

        Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

        by cfk on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 05:26:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm so glad this diary (2+ / 0-)

    is on tonight's "Rescued" List.

    There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity. --Tom Peters

    by Ekaterin on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 08:48:21 PM PDT

  •  Just FTR, US tanks did NOT enter Prague (3+ / 0-)

    during WW2--Patton's 3rd Army never went beyond Plzen (Pilsen), about 50 miles to the southeast. Prague itself was liberated (if you want to call it that) by the Red Army. (Look closely at that photo--those are Soviet T-34 tanks.)

    When I was in Prague in 1990 (my 2nd visit) there was a celebration of the 45th anniversary of Patton reaching Plzen, & at least one of the locals said to me, Why did you stop? Eisenhower's order IIRC--IOW, politics (ptui!).

    I've been back several times since, visiting friends out in the NE suburbs. (Last time I rented a station wagon & we tooled around the Czech Republic for a week--day 7: Not another castle! Please, no!) Praha is still the loveliest city I know of that's not at the seaside (that honor goes to Dubrovnik). And even though the swath from the Castle across Charles Bridge to Wenceslas Square & the National Museum has been permanently debased by the influx of tourists, you can still find marvels (not to mention the best beer in the multiverse) at reasonable prices only a few blocks off the beaten track.

    May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

    by Uncle Cosmo on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 09:14:29 PM PDT

    •  Absolutely correct (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Uncle Cosmo, Marko the Werelynx

      Uncle Cosmo called it correctly. US tanks did not enter Prague during World War II and in my haste last night I undoubtedly did confuse those tanks with American tanks. Being an old fuddy-duddy now, or at least starting to become one, I seem to remember seeing US tanks on that Anniversary but Uncle Cosmo called this correctly. In the back of my mind, I still recall reading an article, at that time, from The Prague Post which talked about why they would have been there. But I would never swear to that in court. So, I will set the record straight.

      I did, however, overhear Czechs, speaking in Czech, on that day, whisper those words: Amerika. Perhaps they were referring to some other conversation, but to me, on that day, I took something away from those words. What I will never give away was the genuine sentiment of Czechs, at that time, on that day, towards Americans. We were embraced. What we did during the War, to help Europe, was remembered.

      Great to hear from you, Uncle Cosmo and you reminded me how much I desire to return to this overwhelmingly magical city.

      •  T-34s look a little like Shermans (2+ / 0-)

        Both have turrets fairly far forward of center. The Sherman is taller compared to its length than the T-34--in fact the Sherman body rises up above the top of the tank treads, which is the real giveaway.

        (That, and the style of the numerals--when's the last time you saw a US Army vehicle wearing a "7" that had a European-style stroke through the middle?)

        BTW no harm, no foul, but the distinction is important to Czechs--by hanging back we pretty much handed their country over to the Russkies, even though the deal wasn't sealed until Jan Masaryk's suspicious death by defenestration in 1948...

        May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

        by Uncle Cosmo on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 10:19:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're Right (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Uncle Cosmo, Marko the Werelynx

          Uncle Cosmo,

          You are the man. I was sloppy choosing a picture to add to my post. Originally, I did not add any pictures. But after reflection, I thought it was important to add a visual, which I did later today. My guess is that not too many Americans have actually stood next to a tank before.

          The last time I did so was in New Orleans. It was the year before Katrina and I had just visited the National D-Day Museum. I was in awe of the sheer size and gravitas that a tank conveys, especially a Sherman tank.

          I think that sometimes you have to witness history, or a historical collection, up front and personal, to better get a sense of things. Like many others, I am a fan of the 'Band of Brothers' miniseries on HBO. But to be up close to an actual WW2 tank; to stand right next to machinery of tremendous power, that adds something to the equation. That adds something to your understanding of what these tanks were capable of, and how they contributed to the war effort.

          Thank you for the comment 'no harm, no foul.' I am in no way a historian and I should probably be much more careful with my choices of photos. BTW, I worked at The Globe - an English Bookstore and Cafe, for a few years during my years of living in Prague and I am the first to admit that the Czechs still to this day (or to that time back in '94) believed exactly what you said. More than a few of my Czech friends brought up that exact point to me. And the father of my friend, of the Czech family I lived with: I remember at least two times that he expressed those exact sentiments.

          But that was not to be the history that occurred with regards to Prague. And we all know what happened as a result. And what could happen again with a blind, aged warrior who chooses not to understand the World as it really is today...

          •  "Band of Brothers" is an incredible series (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            The Ohio Bookseller

            that more than once brought a tear to my eye, when I considered how ordinary & mortal & vulnerable those guys were, how utterly terrified they must've been most of the time--and yet by hanging together & looking out for one another they (& the Allied forces generally) did things that changed the world.

            I hope the kids today have the same sort of mettle sleeping within them--I have a feeling they are about to be thrown into the fire & tested just as that "Greatest Generation" was...

            ...but that's a topic for another day.

            May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

            by Uncle Cosmo on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 11:09:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Those are Czech T-34-85s (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Uncle Cosmo

      Those tanks are from the Czech 1st Tank Brigade; note the Czech tri-color roundel on the front part of the turret sides.

      There was a small Czech army fighting alongside the Red Army in the last two years or so of the war.

      Obviously the eastern portion of the country was liberated by the Red Army (with its small Czech contingent) while the western portion was liberated by elements of the US 3rd Army.

      "A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast" - Groucho Marx

      by Morpheus on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 08:18:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I defer to superior eyesight (0+ / 0-)

        All I see on the fronts of those turrets is a grayish smear that might (or might not) be a tricolor roundel. In any case, any T-34s rumbling through Praha in 1945 were most assuredly made in the USSR, no matter who crewed them.

        At war's outbreak the T-34 was found to have two huge problems: no radio for coordination, and a top hatch that opened forward. The idea originally was to provide protection for the tankisti as they emerged, but in a matter of days of combat it was clear that when the tank commander popped up to reconnoiter, he forward vision a lot more than cover from the odd German round. Once these defects were fixed the T-34 was hands-down the best medium tank of the war on any side.

        May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

        by Uncle Cosmo on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 12:14:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm a tank geek (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Ohio Bookseller

          I am a tank geek and I recognized the markings - there's no doubt they are Czech. You're right, the tanks were manufactured in the USSR.

          The "no radio" myth is just that, a myth. Did you know most French tanks of 1940 lacked radios as well? In fact radios were far from universal in tanks early in the war. The T-34 was designed to have radio in every tank, but a sortage of sets meant that only platoon commanders (i.e., about a third of all tanks) got them before 1943. By mid-war every T-34 had a radio.

          The Germans and British were unusual in having radios in virtually every tank. But the geran tanks mostly had receivers only. Only unit commanders (maybe 20% of all tanks) had two-way radio early on.

          Most historians will tell you the two-man turret crew and poor transmission were much worse weaknesses than the big turret hatch.  

          "A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast" - Groucho Marx

          by Morpheus on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 01:16:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My historian can lick your historian (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            The Ohio Bookseller

            --or maybe not. My source for the T-34 shortcomings was Richard Overy's Why the Allies Won--let's him & them duke it out, hm?

            (FWIW it's a marvelous book. After reading it I was suffused with a sense of gratitude at all having come out well in the end, for Overy makes an excellent case that an Allied victory was by no means inevitable & in fact might have been more of a "damn close run thing" than Waterloo. [& yes, I now know that is a misquote--sue me.])

            So I take it you're in the tank for Barack? :p

            May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

            by Uncle Cosmo on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 01:41:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Dekuji (3+ / 0-)

    From someone hopefully getting ready to call Praha "Domu".  The Golden City is the love of my life......and I actually have close trusting relationships with people there who I can barely communicate with due to the language barrier....the Czech are wonderful in all their often obtuse, cranky glory.....I envy your presence there at such an important point in time, but unfortunately didn't discover the big wide world until a decade later.

    V V  

    PS Happy Birthday

    •  Dobre den, VV. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marko the Werelynx

      Ah, Praha. What more can I say? Once you visit, you'll want to return again and again your entire life. And if you have the good fortune of actually living there, well, in my book, you are blessed.

      You know, it's rather interesting. Somewhere today I read that there are something like 4m Americans living abroad at any given time, all over the World. Does that sound about correct to anyone?

      And yet, right now we have a Presidential candidate who probably isn't even aware of 80% of the nations on this planet. Truly amazing that a candidate could really not see that we are in a new era. The World matters. To all of us. Not just Florida and Pennsylvania, Arizona and Colorado. The World.

      By the way, the crankiness you mentioned? Visit Příbor or Český Krumlov sometime and you will meet decidedly un-cranky people. You will meet some of the best people you have ever met in your lifetime.

      Good luck you in The Golden City!

  •  "he is the champion of Anti-America" (2+ / 0-)


    I was just thinking about that very thing today.  I was composing a diary entry I wouldn't and don't (I'm just up waiting to put the clothes into the dryer) have time to write.

    Thank you for giving voice to what I was thinking!

    PROTECT YOUR VOTE - learn how and tell friends & family and

    by Clytemnestra on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 10:24:01 PM PDT

  •  "America First" (2+ / 0-)

    In many ways, McCain and Palin with their slogan of Country First are the descendants of the America First movement, populated by many prominent Republicans of that day.

    Luckily, FDR and the Dems carried the day.  There were some clear-eyed folk in government back then.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

    by gmoke on Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 10:45:21 PM PDT

    •  Great Post!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marko the Werelynx

      In many ways, McCain and Palin with their slogan of Country First are the descendants of the America First movement, populated by many prominent Republicans of that day.

      Luckily, FDR and the Dems carried the day.  There were some clear-eyed folk in government back then.

      Tomorrow I am pledging to discover more about what you said. I am intrigued by the parallels. Thank you!

  •  Dekuji vam, a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marko the Werelynx

    všechno nejlepší k narozeninám from a fellow Czech lover.  I spent much more time in the South, in Brno, but nothing beats the Czech Republic for that mix of warmth, cynicism, and wisdom.  I love it there.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 12:29:52 AM PDT

  •  Prague 1945 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Ohio Bookseller

    Great diary! And, belated happy birthday.

    Those tanks in the picture are in fact T-34s (as Uncle Cosmo said) made somewhere in the Ural Mountains, but the Czechs who surrounded you were correct in remembering American tanks when Prague was liberated. They were there, driven by Red Army tankers, as a result of the Lend-Lease Program. America sent over 5000 tanks to the USSR as part of that program and the emchas ("M" chetiri = M-4) were there in Prague in 1945. There is a good autobiography of one of the commanders of a M-4 battalion that I read about 5 years ago (Commanding the Red Army's Sherman Tanks: The World War II Memoirs of Hero of the Soviet Union Dmitriy Loza ISBN0803229208) where he talks about liberating Prague in his M4.

    So, no Americans, but America was represented in 1945 by our willingness to give of our wealth to forward the world's cause. As you said, we are at our greatest when we rise to our responsibilities as a citizen of the world, rather than the owner of it. We have lost the respect of most of the world by demanding unconditional deference for the last 14 years. The non-American world wants to respect the American nation again, they have great respect for the ideals that historically have motivated our actions. We can have that respect again when we earn it.

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