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Yesterday Madonna’s world tour  had a stop in Bucharest. 60,000 people were said to be present at her concert.  I like her music and I was curious to see how it was. Before the concert the journalist reported in great detail the preparation for this concert.

According to the news that surfaced the online media channels the night after the concert Madonna had “Romania at her feet” and it was a historical concert.  The organizational problems or fact that, unlike other artists that came to Bucharest, she did not say a word in Romanian were also mentioned.

In the concert a “gypsy moment” took place where Madonna sang  “La isla bonita” and Lela Pala Tute a song in Romani (The Madness Of Love).

Madonna added:

“Now, I’ve been paying attention to news reports and it’s been brought to my attention that there’s a lot of discrimination against Romanis and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe. And I feel very sad, because I don’t believe in discrimination against anyone. We believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone. Gypsies, homosexuals, people who are different, everyone is equal and should be treated with respect, OK? Let’s not forget that!”

That evening  the moment was mentioned only tangentially in newspapers and the public’s reaction was noted by few (I found only one but I am not sure whether they also mentioned it in the printed version – I’ll have to check that). In the heart of Bucharest Madonna was booed when she asked people to respect the others.

Sky News found that this event deserves more than a line and published the “Madonna Booed Over ‘Sad’ Gypsy Abuse” article. The news spread on international media, Associated Press also mentioned it.  Then the Romanian online media started to talk about public’s reaction and how it was inappropriate. They questioned people’s reaction. From the readers’ comments I gather that the TV channels did not mention the “gypsy moment” at all. A number of hours after the news was out (half a day after the event took place) several discussions started online on this topic.

Romania seems surprised. The readers are asked:

Why do you think Madonna sent this message ?:

  • to teach Romanian a lesson about being tolerant
  • to build up her image
  • to make sure her concert will not be soon forget.

First the incident  is not important enough to be talked about in our media, until the international press underlines it. Then we start talking about it. (How we talk about it is another story!)

That is how the conversation about  tolerance takes place in  Romania. I feel like  Romanian leaders hope  we will become a truly democratic country  following the same pattern:  EU will notice our mistakes and will show them to us so that the people  can learn not to make them anymore.

In the “gypsy moment” with Madonna, the public could see (and be vocal about it) that foreigners  say Romanians are no tolerant but in the same time they don’t even know us.  People cannot understand why Madonna would touch or care about a wound that is not hers, a wound  that we don’t even know we have.

Similarly, people cannot understand most of the EU’s regulations and policies and why are those affecting their life. Why does Brussels think they  know us? We never talked with them, they never talked with us. EU will be booed in Romania as long as people will continue to see it as a group of foreigners telling them what to do…in a different language.

When will we learn to be tolerant with Romani people? Well, as you can see, we are in denial about this.

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For the first time in 5 years of living in USA I’ve  spent the 4th of July with a small group of Americans.  As natural as it is to say Our Father before dinner, God Bless America was sang before tonight’s dinner.  No unnecessary introductions, just the song, a few skipped words, goose bumps and small tears.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

In Romania a similar moment, even in a small crowd celebrating our First of December,  would be cataloged as right extremism. In USA you  don’t get a denigrating label (as far as I know) for this. Some say this is because you have freedom, some say because it is not politically correct. It may be also because people cannot really see you. As an Orthodox Christian(but not only),  you still have to wear a mask in the  society. Yes, you are free to worship whatever but why are you so different? …and at one point you get tired of explaining. (Nobody cares anyway).  Depending on the  community, you sometimes need to wear a mask in your own church.

We, who came to learn about freedom first from books and movies,   often don’t expect that, once established,  freedom is not free.  We have to continually give something in exchange for freedom for “our people” being them our community, our county, region, state, world.  Compared to other prices like someone’s life, dignity or identity,  a mask is a small one.  However, to get to this price,  many people paid much more along USA history.  (It’s market economy 101,  a friend of mine would say.)

Will the USA be able to allow maskless people to simply be? Don’t know. All I know is that, at the moment, in Romania, even though the Orthodox communities don’t have a mask they might, just might,  get used to the “right extremist” box they are put in and act accordingly.

Having a Communist past, we are just learning about how our face looks like. Some look in the mirror for this, some on the window heading West. In any case we don’t like masks. What we don’t know is that we are expected to wear one and figure very fast  how to wear it properly in the European society. You see, very few people (if any) are looking for God’s blessing of the European Union. And in Romania … we used to ask for God’s blessing even before cutting our bread at dinner.

Once upon a time, the story goes, that a red dragon was taken down in the land of Europe. In the same time a child was born…20 years later we are invited to celebrate.

During the celebration though, somebody from Poland raise the hand [and typed a question on EUTube channel] asking:
“Where is Lech Walesa?”
Well, this is “a story of child born in Berlin” was the answer. “Actually its about the child that was born on November 9th 1989. [If you cared to see the entire video clip.]”
Somebody else asked:
“And why was the child born on November 9th 1989 instead of June 4th 1989?”

At this moment in time, the host, EUTube, commented that the celebration is just what it is: a 20th Anniversary of democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe and is “about the child being born at the moment the Berlin Wall was brought down.”
[pause]
And…”Where is Walesa, Solidarity, 4th june elections? ”
[pause]
There was some time for thinking, changing statements and after two weeks we are invited to a new celebration. The Polish typing now on EUTube about SOLIDARNOŚĆ are also invited…

What a party!
We thank the host.

We leave wondering if the somebody that asked politely “excuse me, where is Bulgaria???”  during the first 20th celebration  will also be invited in a near future for a special party like this. After all, the red dragon had many heads and many warriors fought him.

If you listen carefully, in nights when the wind blows from the East, you can still hear stories about the old dragon. Some say he still has some heads left, some say it’s only his ghost but many talk about him wandering in the land of Europe.

This is one of my takes on it.

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