It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.
-Charles Dickens: A Tale Of Two Cities (1859)
Living, as I do, in Barcelona part of the time, I am struck with how Dickens’ wonderfully descriptive opening could apply directly to what has become our surrealistic daily lives in Catalonia over the past 2 years – because yes, it has been over two years that I have been trying to write this blog post, and over two years that have found me paralyzed, trying to even know where to begin – so thanks, Charley!
So much of what has gone on here over the last while is governed by perception, emotion, “belief” and “incredulity,” as Dickens points out. But really, it’s a battle over two vast opposing concepts of what a “nation” is.
Warning: long post ahead
To begin with, here are a few facts:
- Nine pro-independence political and cultural leaders have been sentenced to 9 – 13 years after being held since October 2017 in Spanish prisons in “preventive detention.” This was possible because they were charged with “rebellion” – a crime that requires violence to have been committed, and for which they were acquitted. Many of those in prison are the parents of small children, who are growing up with only two hours of contact per month with the missing parent.
- Over 100 members of the recently ruling Partido Popular (founded by Manuel Fraga, a former minister in the Franco dictatorship) have been convicted of corruption in scandals that involve hundreds of millions of euros. None of them is in prison. Wikipedia has a page devoted to political corruption scandals in Spain that is worth checking out.
- Six pro-independence leaders have fled into exile. Various attempts by the Spanish government to have them extradited to Spain on “rebellion” charges have all failed. Spain has now reissued warrants for them, only on “sedition” charges.
- The Spanish judge in charge of instructing these cases, Pablo Llarena, was charged in Belgian courts by exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and other exiled leaders with violating basic human rights. He was ordered to appear in Brussels, the Spanish government is paying his defense for refusing.
At the time of this writing there have been two weeks of demonstrations and protests in Barcelona. The vast majority of them have been peaceful. Over half a million marchers from all over Catalonia converged on Barcelona October 18, and 300 thousand demonstrated on October 26. A few hundred direct action activists who burned garbage bins in the street got way more attention, though – from media and politicians alike.Continue reading “A Tale of Two Nationalisms”