Sunday, January 16, 2011

In Memory: Jan Palach

Today is Sunday, 16 January 2011.

On this date in 1969, a 20-year-old Czech college student named Jan Palach set himself afire in Wenceslas Square in Prague.

You will recall: the previous August, the “Prague Spring”, the attempt to create “Socialism With a Human Face”, had been crushed by Russian tanks.

It seems that Palach and others had hoped to seize a central radio station, and broadcast a call for a general strike, but that didn’t work out. So, in hope against hope, several students agreed to immolate themselves in an attempt to arouse the Czech people to resistance.

Some would denounce Palach’s act as suicide and wrong. While I cannot endorse it as a political act to emulate, I honour Jan Palach as one who gave his life in an attempt to open space for the creation of a better world.

In contrast, there are those, so prevalent in American public life, who teach violence, but always and only from the safety of television broadcasts, journalistic columns, etc. They are too busy running for power in office and cashing checks to put their lives where their hate is, and commit their own violence. Their hearts are always with the tanks.

All honour to Jan Palach.


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