Beneš decrees remembered
There is a big mistake right in your headline ["German Slovaks rise above lederhosen", by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol 6. No. 45]. You got it totally wrong, my friends. We are not German Slovaks but Slovak Germans. We always were Slovak Germans.
Secondly, Mr. Sobek [the President of the Bratislava chapter of the Slovak Carpathian German society who was quoted in the article - ed. note], Sudeten Germans never had to wear "N" (meaning Nemec), but white armbands, meaning capitulation. Believe me, I was there. In those unfortunate years I left Slovakia with my parents and sisters for Germany, but the end of the war caught us in Sudetenland so I know from personal experience about the killing of German civilians. There were executions on a daily basis. About 250,000 civilians were murdered during Beneš's osídlování pohraničí (deportations).
Now I live in Canada, and if you need any historical documentation don't hesitate to ask, I would gladly help because I have studied this history for the past 32 years.
A beautiful land well covered
Forgive me, but I have chosen to speak. I visited Slovakia a short time ago, and I can say it was a pleasure. My wife (who is Slovak) and her family showed me Komárno.
During my stay there, I can say that I was surprised. You have a beautiful country (certainly in the summertime while I was there) and I enjoyed my time there.
But I did see some issues. The inward investment into Slovakia will change your country forever. The people attracting this investment are doing your country a great service. While the older industries that need heavy government support will fade, many new ones will take their place. Embrace them. The acceptance of change is often our greatest challenge. In Britain this ocurred when a certain Maggie Thatcher appeared in 1979. During this time the UK was on its knees. Bankrupt. Crippled by union power, strikes, and poor industries.
The next step is to continue your fine efforts in the struggle to improve your democratic ways. I speak as an Englishman who sees many of his freedoms being swept away in the European tide.
Your hopes to join the EU are something you should continue to drive foward, and it will happen. Europe has much to offer, just don't exchange your democracy for its benefits. Once you enter the EU, your country will blossom in many ways. I look forward to this day. It is certainly my, and many of my countrymen's wish that you gain entry sooner rather than later.
I will add that we generally do not have any wish for the headlong "superstate" others wish for. This is against all we stand for. But I digress, it has its benefits.
I get a copy of The Slovak Spectator whenever I can, and I am often pleased to see its fine, balanced reporting. Your articles are well written, and a pleasure to read. Of course, I know little of the variations within Slovak life, but a free, open and honest press is absolutely vital to any democracy. Stand firm and speak freely!
Good luck in the future. I will be watching.
Giving a bit of balance
David Reichardt recently faulted The Slovak Spectator for a lack of balance [Letters to the Editor, Vol. 6 No. 45]. In doing so Reichardt himself made a few questionable assertions which should not remain unchallenged.
Reichardt writes that remarks by [Justice Minister] Ján Čarnogurský about gays and lesbians have "not been fringe, bigoted or anti-homosexual." They are, writes Reichardt, "the perfectly legitimate and regular teaching of the [my emphasis] Church regarding homosexual behaviour and lifestyle". (I recognise that it is a tradition to use the definite article in referring to the Roman Catholic Church; but for all that there are shades of meaning resonant within the tradition. There is, moreover, the pertinent point that there are many churches in the world.)
To say that Čarnogurský's views represent the teachings of a church is not sufficient to convince us that they are not "fringe, bigoted or anti-homosexual", because we've been given no reason to believe that the teachings of the particular church in question are not "fringe, bigoted or anti-homosexual."
Reichardt also points out that Čarnogurský's views are those of the religion to which a majority of Slovaks belong. But none of this adds up to the conclusion that the teachings in question or the Slovaks in question are not "anti-homosexual." There is no valid inference from "Most Slovaks are Catholics" and "Official Catholic teaching says X" to "X is fair" or "X is not anti-homosexual." That conclusion requires further argument, argument which Reichardt did not provide.
There is in his letter the suggestion that there should be protection for minority rights, but that admission is overridden by his invocation of the principle that the majority can restrict the rights of the minority - which is an extremely odd suggestion. One cannot restrict the rights of a person who belongs to a minority solely on grounds that they belong to that minority.
If we look in Reichardt's letter for further insight into this matter we find the key word "conscience". Reichardt suggests that Čarnogurský and other Catholics are following their "moral conscience" - a phrase which to my ear is redundant, though perhaps forgivably so, given Reichardt's purposes, as it stresses the fact that one's conscience makes pronouncements about morality.
Reichardt is right to suggest that the deliverances of conscience deserve respect, but a view is not guaranteed to be true simply because it is the product of conscience. (I seem to recall that Huck Finn's conscience told him he shouldn't help a slave escape.) Nor, in a free society, should the deliverances of conscience be insulated from examination and debate.
Indeed, the actual teaching of the Catholic Church is that homosexuality is unnatural. But there are reasons to doubt whether the Catholic Church's ideas about nature really make sense.
Reichardt is a bit too charitable in claiming that Čarnogurský's views are not "fringe". The view that homosexuality is a mental illness is not commonly held by mental health professionals.
1. Jan 1970 at 1:00