Don’t cry for me, Malta
It has never happened to me before. I have been writing regular newspaper columns since 1976 and it has always felt like the most natural thing to do.
needlessly undermined the valid points and spot-on arguments.
I have written numerous tributes to ex-media colleagues who passed away, most of them mentors of mine through the years, like Anton Cassar, Tony Montanaro, Charles Abela Mizzi, and Paul Carachi. The hideous nature of Daphne’s departure, however, left me helpless, motionless and angry, as it after all did to the rest of all decent citizens on these Islands.
Yet, I marvel as I write this morning, for I thought I would still be unable to do so, having even contemplated giving up altogether. Somehow, three days on, the writing bug has crawled back to the surface and is willing me to offer these thoughts.
Several years back I had my own very brief newsprint altercations with Daphne but I certainly wouldn’t describe ours as a love-hate relationship. Only on one single occasion I went for the jugular, or what I pathetically thought was the jugular, and I was immediately accosted at the time for doing so by the late veteran journalist Lino Spiteri, who had also had his differences with her. Who didn’t, anyway? He warned me against ever being personal. I took my former editor’s admonition to heart, even going to the extreme of writing a sort of apology in my next column, which happened to be in a Maltese language Sunday paper.
But all these thoughts and memories of course mean nothing today. Vigils and commemorations are OK by the standards of the living; the departed, especially in Daphne’s case, would probably want it differently. Very much in the spirit of Argentina’s Evita Peron, Daphne would tell the rest of us, if she could: “Don’t cry for me, Malta. Just do something about it.” More than something is being done, thank goodness, as the Prime Minister’s speech in Parliament last Wednesday confirmed in a most impressive way.
Some people have been talking about legacy. It certainly should not be the legacy of hatred and venom that sometimes were perpetrated by her, against her and around her, but one that pays tribute to the courage, the talent and the relentlessness of her mission. Certainly words like “war”, “resistance” and “people in the streets” not only do not help, but actually create a negative social ambiance reminiscent of the sad late Seventies and early Eighties when, oddly enough, bombs were also featuring at a time of hotly disputed internal change in the Opposition party. I hope no one in his right mind would want that today.
Peaceful protest against such a vicious criminal act is a right that cannot and should not be denied, but when it is being blatantly used to prop up dubious leaderships and as a way of luring people’s psyche away from the current sense of wellbeing, let alone threatening the nation’s vibrant economy, then it becomes frivolous and dangerous.
Many will continue to interpret Daphne’s words in print and online the way it suits their own individual or political conscience. I am doing that here too, lest anyone thinks I am trying to portray an image of personal spotlessness. The last one to vie for sainthood would have been Daphne herself. It is why I have dared using the Evita idiom on the situation. She would have liked it too.
With the United States and Israel declaring that they are officially withdrawing from UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural body which the Americans themselves had helped found in 1945, it is now obvious Donald Trump is working his way into further isolation. But then, a man who doesn’t care about climate change and the environment can hardly be expected to have any culture.
Like a spoiled brat when he finds himself in a minority within his street gang, the United States has always used the threat of withdrawing its financial muscle and diplomatic backing to international organisations such as the UN itself, FAO, the IMF, the World Bank and, now in real terms, UNESCO. This time it cites “the distortion of history” and resolutions that the Trump administration perceive as anti-Israeli, as a cue to its (and, not surprisingly, Israel’s) withdrawal from the world’s cultural body.
While so doing, the US has had the temerity to say it has chosen to remain in the organisation as a non-member observer state “in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise”. Ironically, it has put itself in a lesser position to that of the Palestinian Authority at UNESCO when, much to American and Israeli chagrin, it became a member of the organisation in 2011 at the invitation of a vast majority of independent world states.
This is not say that the US and Israel are not entitled to their views and official standpoints, mostly based on ancient history that is both interpretive and misleading. But opting out of organisations and institutions that, warts and all, continue to offer a united and democratic perspective to global issues is not the answer.
We heard it earlier, quickly stifled by the local Imam at Kordin. Now German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has whipped up the issue within his own party and its allies when he declared “I am ready to discuss the issue of whether we should introduce a Muslim public holiday.”
The question of Muslim public holidays in so-called Christian states continues to arouse social and political tensions, with many people crying out “No, thanks” in an instant wave of indignation, and many others insisting the reality of huge Muslim communities needs to be recognised by way of nurturing integration.
The debate will hardly ever to stop as nations everywhere change and mix. One look at every major football club’s lineup will show that. The problem is that while a Muslim footballer who chooses to do his pre-start-of-the-match prayers publicly on the pitch today no longer raises an eyebrow, if a Christian footballer were to do the same in a Muslim sports arena, he could be risking his very life.
Back in Germany, CDU member Wolfgang Bosbach was more to the point in his retort, insisting that “even though everyone in Germany has every right to celebrate whatever religious holidays they want”, the issue of non-Christian public holidays is “a different issue”. Perhaps wiser still was his quip that conditioned it to “when Christians will finally have the same religious freedom in all Muslim countries as Muslims in Germany”.