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Antoni Bassas’ Op-Ed

Wert and the ones who don’t like it when people speak, write or think

Because this is a decisive electoral campaign --the main parties may lose a great deal of power and there are many floating voters--, there is a strident build-up of political news, filled with shock and controversy, some of it engineered and some seemingly accidental: the Catalan police informed the judge that two Spanish officers had warned some jihadis that they were being watched by their Catalan counterparts. As it turns out, the latter had placed a mole inside the terrorist cell and he happened to attend the meeting where the tip-off from the Spanish police was received. We have learnt about this because the judge who oversees the inquiry has announced that this information will be taken into consideration. Spanish Home Secretary Fernández Díaz, from whom we should expect nothing short of his resignation, following the continued partisan use of the police forces under his command, has stated the the Catalan government’s action --that is, the Catalan officer reporting the tip-off to the judge-- will have consequences.

This is no laughing matter, since the Spanish minister and his Catalan counterpart --and the police forces that report to them-- are all on the same side. We are on the same side and the very least we should expect from a police force funded with taxpayers’ money is that it does not mistake its adversaries. In the counter-terrorist effort, there is no Spanish or Catalan police. There is just police.

This serious incident occurred with Wert’s words still ringing in our ears. The Spanish Education minister stated that the current status of Spanish in Catalonia is akin to that of the Catalan language during General Franco’s dictatorship. Wert cannot even manage to be original. On 12 September 1993, the front page of Madrid’s ABC (1) read: “Franco’s mirror image: the persecution of the Spanish language in Catalonia”.

Rather than showing an appreciation for how Catalonia has overcome the linguistic humiliation of the Franco era while safeguarding social cohesion, minister Wert has the nerve to draw a parallel between a criminal regime, a dictatorship, and a schooling system agreed upon and preserved by the majority of a democratically elected parliament. It comes as no surprise that a political party founded by a former Franco minister (Spain’s Partido Popular) might refuse to denounce that regime. But it is indecent to compare us to it.

At this point --and amid so much controversy--, we should take a moment to reflect and understand that we are faced with three different areas of conflict.

The first one is a conflict between political parties: we are in an electoral campaign.

The second is a much deeper one. In fact, it is the mother of all conflicts: Catalonia has begun a political and social process towards independence and the Spanish State opposes it with all the strength it can muster, which is a great deal. All of it.

But we must not disregard the third area of conflict, which is neither partisan nor national. It is of a cultural nature and it does not belong to the Catalans or any other particular national group. It is about understanding respect for their language as part an parcel of respect for any individual.

That is why this newspaper has chosen to dig out a fitting quote by Ovidi Montllor (2): “Some don’t like it when people speak, write or think in Catalan. They’re the same ones who don’t like it when people speak, write or think”.

We have printed Montllor’s quote on thousands of stickers and we will be giving them away with Sunday’s issue. Next Sunday’s ARA will get you one of them free of charge.

Finally, since we believe that the fight for freedom and culture does not belong to any language in particular, if you check our website next weekend you will find this same sentence translated into Spanish and English, so that you can print it out or use it as a wallpaper on your computer or perhaps share it with people all over the world, the sort of people who enjoy it when others speak, write and think.

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1 N.T. ABC is a conservative daily newspaper printed in Madrid

2 N.T. Ovidi Montllor was a Catalan-speaking actor and singer from Valencia.