From freedom (4)

We now face a great challenge: turning all our pain into a new social asset

If the media are to be believed, this may be my last letter from prison. It may even be the case that, by the time it is published, the Supreme Court will have overturned its decision to send me to prison on remand. Or perhaps not. Which is why we need to be very careful not to confuse our genuine optimism with our hopes for our impending release from prison. The former helps us to get through each day, while the second could plunge us into depression, if it is frustrated. Whatever happens, it's like life itself: the more optimistic you are, the better and the more life will smile at you, but as for expectations, the fewer you have, the better and they should be as reasonable as possible.

There’s no doubt that the State’s response to the referendum and the subsequent declaration of independence has had a significant impact on us all. The police brutality outraged us. Every image of the police beating and manhandling innocent members of the public who were only trying to vote enraged us and hurt us. That day we collectively went from a congratulatory smile for our civic revolution to a contained gesture of public indignation. But the incarcerations on 16 October and 2 November —and the forced exile of President Puigdemont and the four ministers in Brussels— caused many to travel from indignation to sadness, and pain.

Our sadness and an anxiety were not limited to relatives and friends of those behind bars and those seeking refuge in Brussels. Not at all. instead, it was, and it remains a society-wide sadness. An outrage that has taken hold of a part of Catalan society, wrapping us in a blanket of collective unease.

Here in prison I have felt it through the thousands of words in the letters I have received. And I am sure all of you have also perceived it, if not personally, then in your family or workplace. Many tell me that a form of sadness has hung over all the demonstrations we have organised since 16 October. The light of the candles and the whiteness of the mobile phones on that 11 November projected solidarity and a craving for freedom pierced with sadness.

In their letters, people tell me they find it hard to fall asleep, that they don’t feel like going to the cinema or the theatre. They even tell me they feel guilty being free and enjoying everyday normality (work, family, friends...) while we’re in prison or in Brussels. And a lot more people tell me that they’ve wept, and they still do so when they think about us or hear our families.

It is time to wear our best smile once more, to regain our enthusiasm and prepare to continue making history in the conquest of our freedom

These two months have left no one indifferent. And I’m convinced that today Catalan society is more aware than ever of the meaning and the feeling of solidarity and pain since we have jointly expressed ourselves, without shame and without fear, hundreds and thousands of us. Today there are many more of us and we feel more cohesive as a people. And that is a good thing.

But now we face a great challenge; how to turn all this pain into a new social advantage. The pain we have suffered will count for little unless we collectively transform it into a source of renewed hope.

It's time to recover our smile, the same smile that has made us so strong since 2012. The collective sadness —inevitable in shocking circumstances like the one we have experienced— cannot and should not continue any longer. No one ought to feel guilty if we remain in jail or in exile. It is time to wear our best smile once more, to regain our enthusiasm and prepare to continue making history in the conquest of our freedom.

The work that remains to be done is still enormous. We are at a historical moment in time to continue showing everyone who wishes to see that we are all determined and with the same democratic will to achieve our independence. As a consequence, we must present ourselves to the world in the best manner possible. With a new smile, enthusiasm and a commitment that I invite you to share right away. And on 21 December we have our second appointment with destiny. With the ballot box, in an election that has been declared illegally but from which we will not shy away, as a democrat never shuns a ballot.

Let no one think that the work has already been done, that they are tired, that there is nothing left to do. In building a country one can never say that everything is finished. The nation is a permanent plebiscite. Everyone is called, and we are all needed. Now is the time to turn our pain into enthusiasm and turn back once again towards history. And wearing our best smile. With a light in our eyes and a spring in our step. Let’s do this!

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