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On Bush and Painting with Tennis Rackets


Czech-born tennis legend Martina Navrátilová was recently interviewed by the Lidové noviny newspaper. Below is my translation of selected questions about her views on American society and its tolerance (or lack of tolerance) for free thought, expression, and same-sex marriage. Even given possible changes that could take place given the recent U.S. elections, many of her views seem highly topical and even slightly disturbing.

She was interviewed for their Pátek magazine by Jana Machalická on 21 October 2006. The interview coincided with Navrátilová's recent retirement announcement (at her 50th birthday!) and the Prague opening of the Art Grand Slam, an exhibition of works created by Navrátilová and Slovak artist Juraj Králik. (Photo by Hynek Glos from LN: "Martina and her unique art style.")
LN: Your exhibition was originally planned in Prague Castle. It's rumored that President [Václav Klaus] was against it. You criticized his veto of the registered partnership law [mentioned here] relatively harshly. Are these connected?

MN: I have an opinion about it that I have given publicly and everyone made a big fuss of that. The President wrote to me and explained why he had done what he did and what his convictions were. It is my personal matter, and so I don't want to discuss it further. I also think that the Czech Republic has many more serious problems before it than my views about equality legislation for gays and lesbians. I am much more worried that the Communists still have growing power here.

LN: But after all – the parliament had already rejected the law [on domestic partnerships] a few times and then when they finally passed it, the President vetoed it. Didn't that seem odd to you?

MN: It was truly strange, and there were probably some political reasons that I don't know about. Perhaps Václav Klaus was thinking far ahead, whereas he should be thinking about what is going on right now. I hold my opinions but won't get into speaking more about this.

LN: What is the general situation in America with tolerance of homosexuals?

MN: It is much worse than here. President Bush won't even utter the words lesbian or homosexual they are so odious to him. He only says that marriage must only be concluded between a man and a woman. Greater tolerance reigns in Europe; the puritans win out in America on everything connected with sex. It's been that way since the colonial times. Socially, Americans still have reached the level of most of Europe; after all, when you consider that the first marriage between a white woman and a black man, or vice versa, was not until 1967, this is not so surprising. How could something like that ever be forbidden! And they only struck down those laws forty years ago.

LN: You like to say what you think. Do you have problems with that?

MN: I fled Czechoslovakia because of it—so that I could say what I wanted. The irony of fate is that, when I first criticized President Bush five years ago, they started sending me back to Bohemia. If I didn't like it, they said, then I should go somewhere else; that it [criticism] is unpatriotic. I said that it is very patriotic. I am a citizen and I want to say what bothers me, because that means that my country depends on me and that I want to live well there. You simply cannot agree with everything, it isn't normal and it doesn't even work in marriage.

LN: Did the public agree with you?

MN: One can now criticize Bush, but five years ago nobody did it, and they wanted to shut us up or boycott us. When any artist spoke out against him, they immediately wanted to burn their CDs or create a public scandal, and it was almost like the period under Communism. Democracy is about being able to freely express yourself, and this is supposedly the reason we went into Iraq. And all at once we are losing that right in America itself. It is absurd.

LN: Does it matter to you that in many places today the United States is losing its popularity and status?

MN: Of course it does. Very much.

LN: How would you say it is possible to remedy this?

MN: It seems that we need to have different leadership. The Republicans think that they can do what they want. And that's what they do. They went to Iraq, to a land that they had no right to enter. And they concocted a reason to invade there. For them, September 11 was a pretext; this was clear to me and many other people at the time, but the politicians succumbed to it. All of my doubts about this fell away at the Olympics when I saw how the Iraqi delegation looked at us. If a look could kill, we would be dead. That was two years ago, and it's even worse now. They broke apart an entire country and now they cannot put it back together; people do not want the Americans there at all. Bush has worsened the terrorism situation with these actions; he may destroy Al Qaeda, but worse terrorists who may not even have anything in common with Al Qaeda but still hate America vehemently will grow up.

LN: Bush has, though, been compared to Ronald Reagan [shameless exploitation by Bush at Reagan's funeral], who brought the Soviet Union to its knees . . .

MN: Reagan never entered anywhere with tanks, he solved everything diplomatically – from the table.

LN: Have you met with any animosity as an American abroad?

MN: I think that people everywhere know very well that the government does these things and not the people. However, it is true that we elected Bush a second time, and he really won that time. Even at a time when the country was in a horrible situation. Of course, the Republicans have wonderful propaganda, they have everything wonderfully organized. Even though what they say it isn't true, they repeat it all over and it makes an impression. People do not want to know that they are being lied to, and they do not even believe that something of the sort would be done to them.

Given the setbacks suffered by affirmative action (Michigan's proposal 2) and same-sex marriage efforts in the U.S. (bans were passed in 7 of 8 states—yay Arizona!) in the recent election, Navrátilová's sentiments seem all the more important to keep in mind as we go on toward the next election.


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Comments:

Blogger tuckova said . . .

Yes, this was very timely and useful. Also, based on the excerpts, a much more interesting interview than the one where she talked about how Americans don't pick mushrooms because they aren't in touch with nature. That one made me mad. This one makes sense.    

7:36 AM, November 12, 2006


Blogger P'tit-Loup said . . .

I like the interview. I always have liked her as an athlete, it's nice to know she is intelligent as well.    

7:49 AM, November 12, 2006


Blogger DTMRacerX said . . .

for anybody not in the know, but who still cares (if possible lol) Wisconsin banned same sex marriage at the recent elections. I am not political but I dont think marriage should be considered part of politics either so...ya

I will try to forward an email i got about said subject...if I remember.    

4:02 AM, November 13, 2006


Blogger Karla said . . .

Well, then I guess Wisconsin will be out of luck on hosting my next same-sex marriage (not sure to whom it might be). Perhaps we can hold it in Minnesota instead, more of the relatives live there anyway.    

9:13 PM, November 14, 2006


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