When I decided to look at the right side of the blog world this morning, I expected to find allegations of cowardice and appeasement levied against the voters in Spain. And, like knowing with the same sort of certainty that dead fish will eventually rot and attract flies and provide a fertile ground for maggots, I wasn't surprised.
So I sent an e-mail to my friend, Maria in Barcelona asking her for her thoughts. Maria is probably one of the smartest people I know. She's an attorney with an extensive knowledge of Spanish history and politics, speaks English, Spanish, Catalan, some Gallego and some German and probably other languages I'm unaware of. It's worth noting that having grown up living in Spain through countless years of ETA terrorist acts, she has a healthy contempt for those who engage in acts of terrorism. I remember her telling me about the time an ETA bomb went off either just before or shortly after she had stopped off at her favorite early morning coffee place for a cortado.
She's also very generous, having taken Mércia and me around Barcelona and nearby Sitges when we visited Spain a few years ago and arranged for us to see a soccer game between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Nou Camp Stadium, an experience this soccer fan will never forget.
In any event, Maria responded and did so in her typically comprehensive fashion, shedding some light on matters that I was unaware of. Here's the start of what she wrote me:
I was watching TV this afternoon and there was footage showing how the railway service affected by the attack is working as usual since early this morning. It showed a trainful of commuters, some of them with tears in their eyes, some of them with an openly defiant expression on their faces. Some recognised they had felt a tingle in their stomach when boarding the train, but all said they were not going to change their life because of, and give in to, the assassins who had committed the atrocity.
I can assure you that appeasement doesn't come into the equation. Those who think otherwise forget that we have thousands of PP and PSOE councillors, old and young, who are risking their lives on a daily basis in the Basque country, sometimes getting killed for it, precisely because they refuse to appease the ETA thugs.
And they forget a very simple thing: Aznar had huge support for his hardline policy of non-appeasement of the ETA terrorists and their supporters, however, there was discontent about his lap-dog act towards Bush's war on 'global terror' which, wrong or right, was perceived as inefficient and counterproductive. Discontent extended to other pressing domestic issues, he had antagonised practically all other political parties and more than a few regional governments due to his "you-are-with-me-or-against-me" attitude, his arrogance and his intolerance. However, there was a degree of apathy in the socialist camp, as Rodríguez Zapatero was thought not to have enough experience just yet.
Here's the clincher paragraph (I have added emphasis in spots):
So, the PP knew that their antiterrorist policy (against ETA) was one of its main winning cards, and they didn't hesitate to blatantly manipulate the 11-M attack, suppressing information, calling people to demonstrate against ETA, knowing all the while that the Antiterrorist Information Brigade had as good as discarded ETA authorship a few hours after the attack. The antiterrorist police heads even threatened to resign at the madness of it all, and this was leaked to the opposition and the press. And all the while the state TVE showing documentaries about ETA activities right until late Saturday night, on the eve of the election, and failing to report live on Minister Acebes informing about the Al-Q line of investigation which he had been forced to acknowledge - forced by his own angered police heads and by the media which had all the information but was withholding it just long enough for the Minister to do the decent thing. This heartless manipulation of the dead for political gain clinched it - it was the last straw, it galvanised a portion of apathetic socialist voters who would have otherwise abstained, galvanised first-time voters, and galvanised Izquierda Unida voters (which include communists) who opted for heaping their vote on the PSOE for a higher chance of defeating Aznar (IU lost 5 seats because of that). In Spain, government change has always been heralded by a higher participation of voters. In a nutshell, many Spaniards felt badly abused, and acted accordingly. So, yes, 11-M influenced the vote, but not because we are overcome by fear, or because we think that we can avert further attacks, but because we will only put up with so much lying and manipulation, and especially not when it is the dead and their families that are being heartlessly and shamelessly manipulated.
Does that last italicized comment sound familiar?
In any case, it is a special type of odious arrogance that will accuse an entire nation of being cowards simply from the comfort of your keyboard in San Diego because they decide to exercise their rights as citizens in a democracy, the same rights that you claim that we are fighting for in Iraq.
I trust Maria's perspective on this. Consider the timeline: the public seem to have vigorously turned against the PP late Saturday when it seemed that the news regarding the government suppression of the links to Al Qaeda was coming out. Enough of the Spanish public, as Maria notes were fed up with the lies. With any luck, come November, the American public will be equally fed up.