ON SUNDAY morning, April 5, 2009, I got out of bed and walked into the living room to find my wife crying. Ivan Gašparovič, that prototypical mediocrity, had become the first president in the history of the second Slovak Republic to be elected to a second term. The contrast with my euphoria as an American at the election of Barack Obama only five months earlier was stark.
Cowardice is a funny thing. It can reverse revolutions, all the more easily when they are velvet (and perhaps embarked upon without the requisite amount of forethought on the part of the general public). I recall reading a statement from a member of the Communist party about a year ago to the effect that the revolution of 1989 occurred simply because the Czechoslovak people wanted a greater variety of goods in the shops. At the time I read that statement, I exploded in anger. My wife, wisely, held her tongue. I see now why.
It is indeed humbling that in two decades a people can go from a glorious dissident like Václav Havel to the bumbling arrogance of a former communist. But even putting the Bolsheviks back in power will not change the fact that the world is moving on, whether we want it to or not.
A liter of milk will never cost three crowns again. Your future will never be assured, whether you're in the first or second pillar, or you create seven others. To live in this world is to live with uncertainty, no matter what promises a politician makes.
Any leader who fights to turn back the revolutionary clock—for example, on the issue of unlimited freedom of the press, a democratic necessity—will only make the world's inevitable changes more difficult for the terrified people who entrust them with their lives. To “think nationally and feel socially” means nothing, Mr. President. What matters is what you do. Myself, my wife, and our future children may very well have to live with the choices you make today. Choose poorly, and we will not love your memory.