Following hard on the deaths of Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong Il comes the death of someone who we do have good reason to mourn: Vaclav Havel. Yet I’d bet that many Americans and others have no clue who Havel was. Havel was not a communist dictator, nor a British ex-pat journalist who spent his life defending and promoting communist dictators. Instead he was an activist against communist dictators. He was a native of Czechoslovakia and became an activist against Soviet Rule during the 70’s and 80’s. He did time in prison and later fled to the United States, while his writings continued to inspire others to stand up to Soviet tyranny, and after freedom came to eastern Europe he returned to Prague and became President of his country.
In a perfect world, Havel would be acknowledged worldwide as one of humanity’s great heroes. He would, at the very least, be listed alongside Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and others who sacrificed tremendously while leading movements for freedom. His essay The Power of the Powerless would join King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail among the 20th century’s greatest writings on freedom and activism. Instead he is sorely neglected by the press and intellectual classes. The reason is not hard to ferret out. Havel was an activist against Soviet communism, something that many in the American ruling class supported in the 70’s and a few still have fond feelings for today. (Christopher Hitchens, incidentally, was among those.) Consequently most folks won’t pour too much effusive praise on Havel.
Humanity has lost a true hero and friend, and God has gained a man truly worthy of Heaven.