The Devil Wears Praha . . . Out

Just where did it go—or go wrong—he wonders, as he passes the could-be-anywhere shopping complex to wend his way back after a Mexican meal and a surprisingly good Long Island Iced Tea to the too embarrassingly froufrou and French-sounding to mention hotel they had booked online and chosen for its stylish if less than regionally authentic interiors? Old Praha, I mean, the Eastern European attracting Western European capital I am currently visiting and liberally dispensing.

Earlier today, the East-West clash played itself out before my eyes—however inflamed after beholding hordes of garishly clad Irish soccer fans in town to cheer on what nationalism defines for them as their team in a game against rather than “with” the Czechs—at the local toy museum, where we stopped on our way from the overcrowded Palace. On display in said cultural depository are the Barbie dolls pictured above, lifting their skeletal arms and wriggling their barren hips opposite more traditional playthings of Bohemian manufacture.

To be sure, military toys were not wanting among those mass-produced goods encouraging youngsters to consume . . . mass-produced goods, even though some history lessons might be required for those at play to determine just which garb makes friend sartorially distinguishable from foe.

Sixty years ago, the aforementioned radio playwright and journalist Norman Corwin visited this town on his One World Flight across the globe in the aftermath of the Second World War to report about conditions in Czechoslovakia.

“From Moscow to Prague is a distance of about twelve hundred miles,” Corwin commenced his audio tour. “The land beneath” him, he remarked, looked

as green and innocent as though it had never heard the names of old wars, nor the rumor of new ones. Yet not long ago, over every inch of the distance we were consuming so quickly and comfortably, armies had fought, blood had mixed in the streams and rivers, villages had been sacked, cities bombed. A dead man for every foot of the way.

Corwin expressed himself

naturally anxious to see what betrayal and occupation, and the trials of reconstruction, had done to Czechoslovakia, whether its people were happy and confident, whether they were still friendly to the United States, the country which had done so much to create their republic; how they felt about Russia; whether they were, as we’ve been told along the way, a bridge between East and West; whether they were in a mood to embrace the concept of One World.

Shortly after Corwin’s reportage, the Czechs had little opportunity to realign themselves with the west. Still, I wonder how much of these acts of “betrayal” and states of “occupation” are being remembered now that Prague has gone so thoroughly (so irrevocably?) west, if only in its out-of-the-way way of attracting foreign currencies to be flung across counters all over town by visitors from Europe and the United States. Is capitalism, which swears by competition, staying world conflicts or encouraging them in a way that sports keep the young strong and aggressive so as to make them fit to waste their bodies in international conflicts?

A new kind of megabomb has been cheered in Russia , the news hit me as I settled down after a day of seeing sights. Is this just another sign of healthy competition? Is competition ever healthy, or is it the corruption of the very body it promises to invigorate?

What might be the price and point of removing oneself from the game, he wonders, recalling his inclination to dress up Barbie while other boys his age got dirty chasing and cursing each other on the soccer field, playing the same game that apparently convinced dozens of Irish fanatics in Leprechaun hats to invade this much and oft beleaguered city . . .

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