I am telling you, this year will be remembered.
For once, Mona joined the thousands of people that had protested against an atheist sign posted between the Christmas tree and the Nativity Scene in place at the Capitol this year. (1)
Now all of us that know Mona, including Yuri that knows her for a long time, do not remember her trying to make a point about anything that was not about to affect her business and that had been a constant since 1968.
It is in 1968 that her parents told her that freedom was to return to her country. There was this new leader that released all those jailed for political reasons and now he was the only one not to join the USSR in crashing Prague under the tanks. Her father was so excited about it; he was telling her stories from when he was a student in Prague. He even showed her the drawing his friend made of the Prague Bridge; the drawing they kept hidden in a big trunk because his friend had defected and he was living now in the United States.
Her father was an idealist – he believed in staying faithful to his country. He also believed in hope, he was hoping still to make a difference. And in 1968, said Mona, hope was there at the reach of his hand as he carried her on his shoulders through the city square to hear the people shouting, opposing the invasion. And her father had such long arms that she was certain:"… if anyone could reach out and catch freedom and hope, than he was that one."
But her father lost both freedom and hope in the mental institutions where he was sent later to be treated for his idealism. Or he probably never got a hold of them – he just caught some hallucinations. And there are treatments for people that hallucinate about freedom and hope –treatments such as trepanation and electro-shocks. One has to be careful with people like her father, the doctor said, for their hallucinations are the worse kind – they are contagious.
Thus, following the doctor's advice maybe, Mona became a pragmatist. She defected when she got the chance. Her father's friend found her and helped her to become self sufficient. She had built her own freedom and hope in assets as tangible as one can hold – the career, the business, the investments… Even the failed marriage and her children were things she could confine within, as objects of success, social position and tenderness and care.
Now, you see why we were all struck by the news that Mona had actually picked up the telephone and called to protest. She did not protest against the sign – she never seemed to care much about religion and she considered freedom to be one's right to hold to his own opinions as awkward they might seem. What bothered her was the implication that the Nativity Scene could contain a hate message in itself – she was still our bourgeois Mona: "The statement that the Nativity Scene by itself is hateful is ignorant and a mere sign of bad taste. Though I will agree that the hate speech goes both ways, it does depend a lot on who does deliver the message – some people could make the Nativity Scene be hateful in a half and hour sermon. But again, atheism was not supposed to be the religion of the winter solstice either, just an expression of extreme solitude."