Poland is one of those countries to which today's Americans don't pay a lot of attention. Americans typically remember Poland as the country ravaged by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Sadly, as of this morning, Americans will know Poland for something else. Overnight, a plane carrying Poland's President and several other key leaders went down in Russia. Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and some of the country's highest military and civilian leaders were among 96 killed in the crash.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Polish people. America, fortunately, has never had to endure the sudden loss of a president to a "natural" occurrence. On the dark side, our presidential disasters have been man-made for the most part. Thus, it may be hard for us Americans to imagine what it be like to go to bed one night with a president and cabinet and have them all gone the next morning. Even the most ardent critics of any administration, provided they have their marbles and humanity, wouldn't wish such on any administration and would mourn their loss. Perhaps this is a good time for us all to check our civility quotient. Perhaps we can learn something our friends in Central Europe.
One side plot that will bear watching Poland and Russia's history of strained relations. Though all indications are that this was completely an accident, this tragedy is not likely to help relations between the two countries. There is likely to be suspicion, conspiracy theories, and feelings of deep insecurity as the United States recently committed to scrapping it's missile shield project in the area. Given Poland's history of being invaded and the fact that it borders Russia, the Czech Republic, and other volatile regions, insecurity will be plenty. The Polish people will likely wonder if their country will be taken advantage of during this period in which they are leaderless. Or, will a tyrant emerge from within Poland? Most of Poland's key leaders were on the plane…including the first lady of Poland. They are vulnerable. What a tragedy.
Here are some questions I've pondered as we reflect on all this. I'd love to hear your responses. I will grant that these are not warm, fuzzy questions on which to reflect, but reflection on times like these.
- What obligation do the strong (i.e, the superpowers of the world) have to insure Poland's relative peace as they try to raise up new leadership?
- Memory is powerful. Poland's collective memory can work for it or against it here. Poland can allow the memory of Nazi takeover and concentration camps to prevail, or they can remember how they came back from unspeakable tragedy before and can do it again. Both are real memories. Which dominates will likely determine Poland's recovery.
- How important is leadership? If it were gone suddenly from our country, or from your church, what impact would it have? I'll answer this one: HUGE. It's a good thing to ask questions like this…because it helps us pay attention to raising up new leaders.