Obama’s serious blunder might have shown a lack of professionalism in the administration of the White House. Certainly, though, it also confirmed what we already know about Poland.
We shouldn’t be worried about Obama’s words hurting our national pride. The bigger problem is the fact that the blunder made by Barack Obama reflects poorly on his administration and, whether we like it or not, it is the actions of this administration that affects the political landscape all over the world. If it was impossible to avoid such a basic verbal mistake, we should be concerned about other ones made off the record. In that case, our safety might be in danger.
Obama’s “Polish death camps” was an outrageous mistake also because it is the United States that have been playing the role of the international sheriff defending democracy. They chase their enemies all over the world including places such as Hanoi, Moscow, and Baghdad. It does not suit the country that constantly claims, rightly or not, to be fighting for freedom to make such textbook mistake.
“Polish death camps” might have been a result of the administration’s incompetency or simply just an accident. However, it is hard to say the same thing about our reaction to it. Polish people with the politicians at the forefront responded so predictably that there is no room for doubt in this case; yet again, we proved to be the same egotistical Poles that we are in every international affair.
We find it easy to judge the ignorance of others. We love to laugh at the Americans who have problems with locating countries on the map of Europe but, at the same time, we would probably find it hard to name at least a few American states. All the misconceptions about the World War II infuriate us but we barely know anything about the American Civil War. We demand that other nations distinguish nuances of our history while we don’t know the basic facts about the events that do not directly involve our country. The problem starts when the politicians start preaching to the choir. The hysterical response of Polish politicians reaffirms the notion of perceiving the other nations – Americans, in this case – with a pinch of salt and a feeling of superiority.
It was bluntly expressed by Ryszard Czarnecki during his speech, in which he called Barack Obama an ignorant. This time though, it was not only right-wing politicians that followed suit; Leszek Miller said that Adam Rotfeld should not have accepted the Medal of Freedom; Donald Tusk made a speech that was more emotional than diplomatic; Joachim Brudzinski, on the other hand, said in one of the talk shows that Obama did it on purpose because there are a lot of voters of German descent in the United States. Bronislaw Komorowski turned out to be a positive exception among Polish politicians, as he was the only one who responded in a calm and, what is most important, an effective manner.
Ryszard Czarnecki’s words did not create a stir because many Polish people had a similar opinion. Obama is an ignorant like the rest of the Americans. After all, the only things American do is tanning in Florida, playing baseball, and shopping in New York City. What can they possibly know about our suffering and Poland, the Christ of all nations?
“Polish death camps” affair will quiet down and the American president will soon forget about it, but we will still be stuck with our egocentrism. We will still be annoyed with ignorant Americans, complain about Russians and Germans, and protest if anybody dares to call Wroclaw Breslau, even if it is a Polish public officer.
Have we ever wondered what do we really know about other nations? For example, what do we know about Bombay? Unfortunately, we probably don’t know a lot since our language is one of the last ones to identify the name with the Indian city of Mumbai in its official and daily use.
Translation: Paweł Szczepkowski