A Polish mayor’s slaying and the toxic politics of violence and hate

People hold lit candles in a memorial march for Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz, in Warsaw, Poland, on Jan. 14, 2019.
Czarek Sokolowski/The Associated Press

Here is exert from one related article and archive of another. I believe once their is more done to unite the public, inform them of the facts instead of divide, mislead and rile there will be less political related violence and more positive change.


Investigators are checking to see if the assailant, who was recently released from prison, has psychiatric problems. He stabbed Adamowicz three times in the heart and abdomen and told the crowd Sunday evening that it was revenge against Civic Platform, the now-opposition party in Poland (Centre to; centre-right) that was in power when he was imprisoned for bank robberies.

Mayor’s Killing in Poland Sparks Anger Against Hate Speech – VOA NEWS

January 17, 2019 0:48 AM
Associated Press

OPINION

JILLIAN STIRK
CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED JAN 15, 2019
UPDATED JAN 17, 2019

Archive if needed

Jillian Stirk is an associate at the Simon Fraser Centre for Dialogue. She has spent more than 30 years in Canada’s foreign service with assignments to Poland, NATO and as ambassador to Norway. She is currently working on a novel set in Poland.

As thousands gather across Poland to mourn the killing of Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz, could this be the time to call a halt to the politics of division and hate? Moments before he was attacked on the stage of a charity fundraiser, Mr. Adamowicz spoke of “Gdansk as a most wonderful city, full of good and tolerance.” Like so many, he believed bigotry and discord were an aberration, and that Poles were capable of something so much better.

The man accused in the attack appears to be an ordinary criminal not directly associated with politics, but many see the aggressive rhetoric of the far-right as having set the stage for this heinous crime. Although politicians from all sides condemned the attack, Law and Justice, the right-wing populist party in power, has consistently pursued a nationalist agenda. It has used its authority to stifle freedom of speech and to chip away at the constitutional framework. Too often, its leaders have stood by while malign forces promoted violence and hate. Now, these same nationalist figures are shocked by the murder of a high-profile progressive politician.

Mr. Adamowicz came of age in the Solidarity era. He took part in the protests of the 1980s that eventually turned the communist system on its head. He knew that Gdansk was not just a symbol of freedom, but the example of how all Poles – workers and intellectuals, rural and urban, religious and secular – had stood together in pursuit of common goals and faced down a system based on fear, mistrust and lies.

Mr. Adamowicz was a long-time advocate of the rights of immigrants and all those who were somehow “different” in a country where the discourse has been tainted by xenophobia. He was a passionate advocate of inclusion: He marched in the Pride parade, he welcomed migrants and he showed solidarity with the Jewish community after an attack on a Gdansk synagogue. He saw Gdansk as a trading city, open to the world, true to its Hanseatic past. For his efforts, he was the target of hate propaganda, and was among those for whom a right-wing extremist group had issued fake death certificates. Like many of his fellow citizens, he was appalled by the way in which Poles have turned against one another.

But the rise of populists and the ensuing polarization is hardly unique to Poland. We live in an era when intolerance and incivility are becoming the new normal. Politicians in North America and Europe routinely use the tactic of fear to sow discord and to shore up their own support. Donald Trump’s wall and Theresa May’s Brexit are prime examples of how playing to xenophobes is not only dangerous, but ultimately spawns bad policy.

In large parts of the former Soviet bloc, governments that were often riddled with corruption failed to deliver. Older, less educated and rural populations became disillusioned, providing fertile ground for extremists to practise their politics of hate with impunity. Along with the rusting factories, the arc of intolerance that sweeps across Eastern and Central Europe is part of the legacy of communist rule. In the case of Poland and Hungary, the current governments and their supporters draw on deep-seated fears, especially among those for whom the advantages of democracy and European integration have not been fully realized.

Poles have been gathering across the country lighting candles and remembering a man who believed in the triumph of our better natures. Government-orchestrated marches have been rejected in favour of quiet vigils. The tragic death of a mayor in faraway Gdansk is a reminder to us all that words matter and that we have a choice about what kind of societies we want to live in. Perhaps this will be a turning point for Poland and an opportunity to return to the ideals of hope and freedom and democracy. Perhaps ordinary Poles will have had enough and will once again unite to change the way politics is practised. What better way to honour Mr. Adamowicz’s memory than to say no to incitement, fear and intolerance. After all, it has not always been so, not least in Gdansk, the city of “freedom and solidarity.”

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About Kevin Yaworski

I use my blog to write about things I find interesting or that I think are matter of public interest.
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