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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Airbag Nation

People filed into the Boris Paichadze National Stadium from all over Tbilisi. Unlike the sour grapes that had been standing on Rustavli Avenue for the past month, these people were smiling and light-hearted, at first.

One man in his 50s walked by and gave me the wooden eye treatment, stopped, deliberated for a moment, came back and let me have it.

"Where are you from?"

"America."

"Bandits," he said. "A nation of criminals. Bryza has support of only two percent, two percent of the people. He's a faggot and a liar. And Saakashvili, the faggot; he's got to go."

It was the first time I had heard Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Matthew Bryza's name mentioned on the streets of Tbilisi and had no idea what 2 % the gentleman was talking about.

"So if Saakashvili goes, who should replace him?" I asked. But Jemal, the gentleman I had the pleasure discoursing with, is not a listener of questions.

"Burjanadze is better," I rephrased.

"What? She's just like Saakashvili!"

"Alasania is better," I said.

"Eh, Alasania is American. A faggot."

"Natelashvili, Shalva," I said.

"Oh, yes, there's a man. If he ran for president right now he would win thirty, forty percent; he'd be president!"

Questioning Jemal's numeric logic or anything else was out of the question. He just was one of 55,000 people that showed up at the opposition's Independence Day rally to listen to them bitch about Saakashvili under the guise of celebrating the national patriotic holiday.

"But where is he?" I asked. With the exception of a brief appearance at the April 9th rally, Natelashvili, leader of the Labor Party bowed out of the opposition coalition.

"Oh, he'll come."

Jemal, like many, were not here to support a particular leader, but a cause, which is fair enough, but the problem is that nobody has bothered to look further than their nose.

"Saakashvili - go!" a young man said to me. "Then we will have democratic elections!"

"And who should replace Saakashvili?" I asked.

He acted like he didn't hear me.

"Who will you vote for?" I rephrased.

"I don't know, I haven't decided yet," he said with a cynical smirk.

In 2001, Speaker of Parliament, Zurab Zhvania told a group of university students that when he and his friends dared think of the future in the 1980s, the equation was black and white.

"We always deeply believed that as soon as communism ends, as soon as we are separated from Moscow, Georgia will automatically become a country like Switzerland or Belgium," he stated.

The late Rose Revolutionary said that such a concept was an illusion that cost the country a lot. It is an illusion that continues today as the opposition sends the same message to thousands of dissatisfied people. Vote for us and everything will be OK before the next wine harvest.

Jemal was right, Natelashvili did come, and the people cheered him as he walked a victory lap around the pitch. As my comrade M.C. Alexdaddy so rightly observed: “You can say what you want about these guys, but they’ve been out here everyday and where has Shalva been?”

(Shalva Natelashvili, lifted off www.daylife.com)

Like every party needs a drunk, every country needs a blabber-mouthing populist. Jemal didn’t come up with that crack about Bryza all by himself.

Back in 2005, Shalva said Bryza’s biased reporting on Georgia and support of the Saakashvili administration undermined both the promotion of democracy in the region and ties between the U.S. and Georgia. He called on the US State dept. to sack him. When he failed to get a visa to Great Britian in February this year, he said UK Ambassador Denis Keefe had conspired against him with Saakashvili, and also demanded Keefe’s dismissal.

"We are suspending all contacts with the British Embassy until apologies are made and the ambassador and consul recalled from the country," Shalva said, as reported in civil.ge.

What I like most about Shalva is that he’s about as lazy as I am and has the gall to lead a political party called Labor. Guram Chakhadze, a parliamentary minority leader, claims that Natelashvili, and MPs of his party, are boycotting parliament but have failed to tear up their membership cards like others have done in protest.

“He enjoys all the benefits of being an MP, including the salary, which is substantial, but he doesn’t work,” Chakhadze said.

Although Natelashvili received a generous ovation, the show stealer was Utsnobi, who entered the stadium on the shoulders of his disciples. After his teary-eyed victory lap, the rock and roll political activist ran out to the giant Georgian flag on the middle of the pitch, prostrated himself and kissed it, to the cheers of the crowd.

The opposition had the crowd in the palms of their hands, and with this momentum announced they would collectively march to Sameba, the largest church in Georgia to ask the Patriarch Ilia II, Holiest man in the country, for advice, before marching to the opposition HQ in front of parliament.

Who knows what they figured he would do, but they obviously didn’t expect His Holiness would be so Christian and recommend they talk and not be so reactionary.

Burjanadze decided to ignore the leader of the Georgian Orthodox church’s advice, stating he wasn’t going to say anything that was going to please her anyway. “Our actions should be very harsh but full of responsibility,” she added (civil.ge).

Ever the attorney, Eka Beselia, of the Movement for United Georgia stated “he didn’t tell us we shouldn’t struggle; we should do our deed ourselves.”

Utsnobi, however, had all the answers. “He (the Patriarch) has been taken hostage by Saakashvili!”

At one point the rabble began to boo the opposition leaders, for it was getting dark and Saakashvili was still president. Creating expectations and not delivering got Saakashvili in this mess; you’d think the opposition would have learned the lesson. Instead they announced, as they always do, “we’ll keep protesting and get back to you with the next action plan,” verifying that they have no plan – it is a make it up as you go along pseudo-revolution. Then somebody came up with the great idea to march on over to the train station and prevent trains from departing, which they did.

It is like a runaway car careening downhill without a driver. Airbags aren’t gong to help when the car crashes. In fact, the airbags are responsible for the whole mess.

2 comments:

Khatia said...

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Anonymous said...

Your postings give a very clear picture of the situation in Georgia, I admire your insight into the Georgian character too. It's so accurate, though very paiful to read at times.