Yesterday, Romania stood up for an end of corruption. Tear gas and water cannons were turned on them by their government. For 100,000 Romanian people they just had the past smack them in the face. Though, like the Romanians I know — they got back up and kept going.
I have very dear friends and people I love who live in the remarkable country of Romania, a place defined by centuries of invasion and creative innovation, romance and brutality. Theirs is a country of contradictions, yet what country is not? Though, in my experience, my friends (mostly artists) are remarkably patient: they’ve been trained to be that way because once a dictator stole the life of their country. The protests we see in the news are an expression of the process of facing ancient (yet still present) tyranny and pushing through despair to try hope on for size. We American’s are just getting a taste of this kind of broad repression, now.
I believe as Americans we need to understand what’s on the line for Romanian’s standing daily in those ancient streets: as the tear gas was blasted at them they will not have an ACLU (lawyers for good) to help defend them – when the fire hoses are shot at them they have no right to assemble, so they may be breaking the law simply being there. By design, nationalism removes the civic infrastructure to protect citizens; yet, up they stood and demanded what is right, for, in the end, it is simple, if what is right remains then humanity has a chance.
I wrote a character, Mosie, in my book. His family left Romania in the 80’s to escape the tyranny their child would have faced with Cerebral Palsy. They were escaping the corruption in policy and lack of any ethics of the dictator, Ceausescu. In the book they become ex-patriots “ex-pats”, they go into exile in France. They become ex-patriots, and the story goes from there.
Yesterday, tens of thousands of REAL “ex-pats” traveled to Romania this week to make up the 100,000 or more people standing up against corruption. It is also true that people try to make a change or resist in small ways every day in Romania, yet, this was a large stand and clearly threatening: terrifying perhaps because if the ex-pats come home (all 3.5-4 million of them) the power will profoundly shift.
I do not know how the character Mosie would respond, nor the Lev family in real life. Yet in my mind, they too get on planes to Bucharest and walk with old friends to demand an end to the rotting of the spirit and a future of a country that has the potential to be its own true place. I think this because in the end of What Stella Sees, Mosie faces the depth of his country:
“…the loss of Bucharest, his hometown, had been pulled from him by the government that hated his imperfection.”
In the end, this is the equation: hatred + tyranny = the hatred of the weak, poor, different, creative, vocal and the imperfect. This equation is rising in the world, and real people (and even characters in novels) must stand and be so very present that corruption, that bloody bully, shakes in fear.
August 11, 2018 /12:00pm PST
Sarah Kornfeld is a creative producer and author. She is working on an installation project in Romania and has just publiched a novel, What Stella Sees.