published Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Freedom vs. tyranny

With the high-profile death of Communist North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il last Saturday, the death of another -- and far better -- world leader got far too little attention.

Vaclav Havel, the first president of Czechoslovakia after it shook off the rule of the Communist Soviet Union, died one day after Kim died.

Their lives couldn't have been more different.

Kim maintained power by terrorizing his starving people, and he menaced free South Korea and other nations in the Far East by building nuclear weapons.

Havel was vital to Czechoslovakia's efforts to end Soviet domination. He spent years in prison for his attempts to liberate his people, and even when he wasn't incarcerated, he was under frequent surveillance. His writings and other work inspired the Czech people, and in 1989, they became free after decades of Communist rule.

Another anti-Communist leader, former Polish President Lech Walesa, eulogized Havel as "a great fighter for the freedom of nations and for democracy."

And former President George H.W. Bush declared Havel "a gentle soul whose fierce devotion to the rights of man helped his countrymen cast aside the chains of tyranny and claim their rightful place among the free nations of the world. His personal courage throughout that twilight struggle inspired millions around the world ... ."

Those are thoroughly justified words of tribute for a leader who risked everything so that his people could be free.

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