Havel’s Entrance

“Across the aisle, about four rows nearer the camera and the pulpit, I noticed one of New York’s wealthier literary agents in conversation with an author noted for his patriotic fictions on the theme of America the Invincible and America the Good. They looked as sleek and soft as otters, both of them expensively manicured and glittering with gold jewelry, and it occurred to me that neither would have had much trouble serving the Communist ancien régime in Prague. Nor, if the times demanded a change of ideology and a rearrangement of political furniture, would they find it difficult to serve any other regime (fascist or monarchist or social democratic) that generously rewarded them for their hired loyalty and praise. I was estimating the likely speed of their change of costume when Havel entered the cathedral through a side door, forty-five minutes late, invisible in a crowd of friends, dignitaries, and Secret Service agents. He was so far away that I was aware only of blurred movement, as if I were watching a wind passing through distant grass. Although almost nobody else in the cathedral could see him any better than I, the entire congregation, maybe as many as one thousand people, instinctively rose and applauded.”

Lewis H. Lapham, The Wish for Kings: Democracy at Bay

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