VV’s diary

June 1st: "Spanish government’s statement on whistling incident is embarrassing"

A democratic shame. No government of any country likes it when people whistle in protest at their national anthem. But when many citizens of a state whistle at their own anthem, it’s a sign that there is a fundamental problem that cannot be fixed with sanctions. It means that those citizens do not feel that the anthem or the state is their own. And scolding, sanctions, and criminalization will not make it so.

A democratic state, faced with massive whistling or booing, should not hide behind authoritarian language like that of the Spanish government’s statement. A democratic state should concern itself with the opinion of each and every one of its citizens, and more so if they are many. When they represent a significant part and possibly even a majority of a region, it should ask itself what is happening and try to resolve it. And not with the criteria and tools of an authoritarian state, but rather with the language and tools of a democracy: listening to the people, noting the most substantial part of their demands or discomfort, and trying to address them.

To listen to the people, in a democracy, is to let them speak with their ballots. When the people are not allowed to vote on an essential question --when they are not permitted to speak democratically--,  it’s no wonder that they experience a sudden urge to whistle in protest.