At first, when I read that Pavel Novotný, ODS mayor of Řeporyje, had said that it was in the best interests of the Czech Republic that Andrej Babiš and Miloš Zeman should die, I was surprised. Just as I was surprised when I saw a music video by the Czech band Monkey Business of their single “Do It! (If You Don’t Have Any Children),” directed by the group’s lead singer Matěj Ruppert, in which we see the video’s sympathetically portrayed protagonist (played by Jiří Langmajer) training to assassinate Babiš and/or Zeman with a rifle. In the end he doesn’t, but only, the video suggests, because of his sense of responsibility to his children (hence the need for somebody without children to “do it”).
My surprise came from the fact that in the United States such overt incitements by an elected official, or even by a popular band, to assassinate another elected official would not be tolerated. Even those Republican representatives who encouraged the mob that attacked the Capitol building in January did not propose the killing of any elected officials.
Indeed, the furthest American politicians go in that direction is to use some suggestive imagery, such as that controversially used by Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential nominee of the Republicans, on her website in 2010 when she used the cross-hairs of a rifle to denote “targeted” congressional seats of that year’s national midterm elections.
But what is happening here? Palin and others like her – like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the newly elected Congresswoman from Georgia who has recently gotten into trouble for suggestive comments she made before she had ever campaigned for public office – are a part of the largely rural and anti-intellectual, authoritarian “God and Guns” faction of the Republican Party. Such imagery coming from them, then, is not entirely surprising.
Novotný and Ruppert, however, are proud members of the liberal, educated class that is the great proponent of Czech democracy. As such, they must be honorable men, and honorable men do not encourage the assassination of democratically-elected leaders.
This can only mean that the fault must lie with me, with my own lack of understanding of the context in which these statements were made. That is, of Czech politics and culture.
How could I, coming from a country in which the state executes dozens of prisoners every year, be expected to understand the politics of a country where there is no death penalty. And how could I, coming from a country in which the police gun down a thousand people a year, understand a country in which for three years running the police (at least the state police) didn’t kill a single person. And, as regards the assassination of elected officials, I come from a country where fully four of our presidents have been assassinated, not to mention some number of senators, state senators and representatives, and mayors (including Anton Joseph Cermak, the Czech-born mayor of Chicago), whereas only one elected Czech official has ever been assassinated, Alois Rašín, and that in 1923, outside of living memory.
The answer, in short, is that I can’t be expected to understand. An so when Czechs such as Pavel Novotný and Matěj Ruppert, both honorable men, seem to an American to be encouraging violent acts, it does not mean that they are in any way suggesting actual political violence – of which a modern-day Czech person would not be capable. They are, in fact, speaking purely figuratively, even metaphorically, and need not worry that it will be misunderstood. Thus, the concern that the Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had publically expressed in March of 2010 about Palin’s use of the crosshairs on her website – that “the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action” – would not apply in the Czech Republic. For there is no Czech like there was an American such as Jared Lee Loughner who, in their mental instability, might be inspired by such imagery toward an actual act of violence. In Loughner’s case, this was the violent act that he (a childless man who “did it”) committed when he opened fire on Giffords at a public meeting in January of 2011, killing six people and causing her permanent brain damage.
For, as I have said, the misunderstanding was mine, and my initial concerns about the statement of Novotný and the video by Ruppert – that these were dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible actions – were clearly misplaced, and for that I apologize.
published: 1. 4. 2021