Friday, December 23, 2011


To lead and to rule are two sides of the same four letter word.

Word reached us last weekend about the deaths of two current or former heads of state.

Václav Havel was a Czech playwright and poet in the 1950's, 60's, known for his clever and absurd writings and dramas.  After the suppression of the Prague spring in 1968, his plays became more and more politically risky, and by the 70's his writings landed him in jail on more than one occasion.  He never ceased in his dissident writing, however, and his attempts to bring about "truth and love [] over lies and hate".  Although uninterested in politics, in 1989 he was elected President as the Soviet system collapsed, and served until the breakup of Czechoslovakia itself in 1992, returning to the presidency of the new Czech Republic from 1993 until 2003.  His legacy is mixed, but it was clear that he tried to bring hope, life, and a new brightness to his people as he lead them out of the darkness of the cold war.

But Europe wasn't the only battleground in the cold war, nor was Havel the only post-cold war leader to have died last weekend.  Kim Jong-il was the "supreme leader" of North Korea - a post he ascended to after the death of his father in 1994, and a post his father had held since the founding of North Korea after WWII.  Under the rule of the Kims, North Korea has remained largely isolated country, with minimal relations with even its closest neighbors, increasing suffering of her people, and increasing condemnation from the world community.

Two deaths of national leaders.
One chose to lead his people.
The other chose to rule them.

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