On Poetry and Culture Shock

The Spanish Republic

I’ll tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a country ruled by a king that was neither very old, very rich, or very wise. And there were elections to the City Councils of this country (to save time and paperwork, all Town Councils were elected at the same time) and the Republican party (meaning the anti-monarchy, absolutely nothing to do with American republicans) won the elections. Technically, to overthrow the king they would have had to win the Parliament elections, but the king thought he had overstayed his welcome and left the country (cowardice or good sense? who knows). Soon after, the Republican Party, which was a lot more lefty that socialdemocrats nowadays and a bit less radical that communists, won the Parliament and Presidential elections. They changed the Constitution and dedicated themselves to the task of improving the national school system. They had two pillars: good quality public education for all, and some hostility to religion. In this country, there had been a privileged religion that was not happy at all with its loss of status and with the new secular schools.

The Republic lasted only a few years, very few, until some very rich people, together with most of the military and with the official approval of the religion I mentioned, made a coup d’état. Then there was a war and the country’s economy and its people’s quality of life went down for decades afterwards.

When the country had a one-in-a-lifetime chance of becoming democratic and peaceful again, the grandson of the king who was neither old nor wise seemed to be an unavoidable figure that had to be put at the centre of the game board as a handful of men tried to decide the future of us all. There were a lot of compromises and the only thing that made a majority of people happy was that we were indeed a democracy –not a very peaceful one, but still. The Republicans old enough to have actually lived through all four political regimes (the old king, the Republic, the dictator, the new democracy) were probably the ones that compromised the most. After all, they had been stripped of more legitimate rights than any one else.

I’m not Republican, because I’m not against the fact that there is a king in Spain. To me, the royal family are like honorary ambassadors that didn’t need to major in Political Science at college. I don’t care one way or the other. If they are there, they might as well do a good PR job and deserve their salaries (yes, they receive a salary out of people’s taxes because they don’t have a private fortune, like, for example, the English queen). I like everything else about republicans: the importance of freedom, of public education, of secular public life, and keeping religion well off politics. And they have had better reasons than other people to make their demands by force, but we have never had Republican terrorists in Spain. Of that, I’m thankful.

Today is the anniversary of the Republican Constitution. So, Happy Birthday, Republic.

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