Friday, September 28, 2007

There's been a lot of anger in the rest of Spain at the wave of burnings of photographs of King Juan Carlos here in Catalonia; the extremist Cataloonies did another one today at the university here in Barcelona. Torching the king's image is illegal in Spain, as is burning the Spanish flag, and those who have burned photos are being prosecuted for lese-majesté.

My opinion is that 1) burning an image or a flag is political expression--it says very clearly that you despise everything that what you're burning stands for--and should therefore be legal, as it is in the US 2) Anyone who does such a thing to a symbol of democracy is a complete and total asshole and should be scorned by all the rest of us 3) The law's the law, and until it's changed it should be enforced. Put these jerks on trial for lese-majesté; it doesn't bother me in the least. But don't put them in jail, that'd be counterproductive (and besides, I think jail ought to be reserved for violent criminals). Give them a massive community service sentence, and make sure that the service they do is cleaning up bedpans in nursing homes 4) Change the law. Don't fear free expression, unpleasant as it might be.

I understand the anger at the photo-burners, and what's interesting is that the rejection is coming from both the moderate wing of the PP and from the PSOE. The Communists don't seem to care, and there are elements of the far right who don't like Juan Carlos either. What the moderates are objecting to is the photo-burners' hatred of what they have created, a successful modern democratic Spain with all its faults--and its virtues.

King Juan Carlos is a symbol of Spanish democracy, the democracy built by the moderates on the right and the left. He was the most important single figure during the transitional period. If he hadn't set the transition in motion, and had been willing to serve as a puppet for the army (which is what Franco wanted him to do), Spain would be something a lot worse than it is today. If he hadn't spoken on TV to the people against the February 23, 1981 attempted coup, and made it clear that he would abdicate if a military junta took over, it might not have crumbled so fast--and don't forget, General Milans del Bosch rolled the tanks through the streets of Valencia that night, while rogue Guardias Civiles held the Parliament hostage. A weaker man might have folded.

The photo-burners say Juan Carlos is Franco's appointed successor. So what? Does that invalidate him as monarch? Juan Carlos certainly did the opposite of what Franco wanted him to do. Pasqual Maragall, Paco Ordoñez, Miguel Boyer, Adolfo Suárez, Manuel Fraga, and a whole lot of other people whose commitment to democracy is unquestionable worked for Franco's government, too, on the moral grounds that somebody competent had to run the country, whether elected or not.

No comments: