The other night, NBC showed pictures from the trip of Pope John Paul II to Poland and featured a man named Stanislaus. He was in the crowd at one of the papal masses and, unlike most of the people there, unlike those who even asked not to have their faces filmed, Stanislaus brazenly held aloft a Solidarity banner. It was a brave act, but one for which he will probably h
It was also a symbolic act. Like Stanislaus the man, Poland the nation may also have to answer for the pope's trip and the astounding things he has done.
Quite on his own, the pope has taken Polish society by the heels, turned it upside down and given it a good shaking. In a communist country, he has talked of God and religion, which was expected, but he has also talked of political freedom, the right to form unions and--in speech after speech--has all but endorsed the now-banned Solidarity movement.
All this has been a wonderful thing to behold, and who was not moved by seeing the television film of the pope blessing millions of Poles? Who was not moved by the individual acts of incredible courage or by the crowd employing an old Polish hymn to make a patriotic and anti-Russian statement? This was at once a rebuke to the regime and a cry of hope. It was wonderful stuff, as wonderful as the "Marseillaise" scene in the movie "Casablanca," only this was real. It is made all the more wonderful because the pope himself is Polish and because no matter how vast the crowds and how important the issues, this is also the story of a man--a man who may never go home again.
But we know, too, that the pope crossed-up the Polish regime. In return for allowing his visit, he was supposed to restrict himself to religious messages. He did not, by any stretch of the imagination, do that. His constant use of the word "solidarity," often in a non-political context, was nevertheless understood by everyone to have a political meaning. His message was not lost on the crowds anymore than it was lost on television viewers.
It goes without saying that those who held up Solidarity banners will pay for what they have done. That is the nature of a totalitarian society. But it goes without saying, also, that others will pay, too, and in the end it might be all the Polish people.
Among the first to pay might be Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski who, say what you will about him, is no world-class tyrant. In the context of Eastern Europe, especially compared to Soviet leaders, he is a moderate. The fact that Lech Walesa admits to having met with underground Solidarity leaders and still walks around free is a testament not only to the stature of Walesa, but also to the relative moderation of Jaruzelski. Now, Jaruzelski will have to answer to both hard-liners in Poland and, maybe more important, to the Soviet Union, for what he has allowed. He was snookered by the pope, which was bad enough, but all the world--which includes East Germans watching West German television--saw an open display of dissidence bordering on impudence.
This is the sort of thing that drives the boys in the Kremlin around the bend and it is precisely the reason why so many Russians, from Anatoly Scharansky to the truly obscure, are in jail.
The pope is a son of the Polish church, which better than any knows the limits of things. Even so, he might have pushed beyond the limits, possibly not understanding that what he did as a Polish cleric he cannot do as pope.
The stakes are higher now, which is to say riskier, and the pope has gone from religious matters, where he is infallible, to power politics, where he is, like anyone else, most decidedly not.
It will take some time to assess the impact of the pope's trip. For the pope personally, as well as for those whose spirits were lifted for the moment, it was a triumph. But the history of post-war Eastern Europe is dotted with wonderful springs like that of Prague that are followed by long, dark seasons of increased repression. The pope made it warmer in Poland than it has been in some time. Let us hope he has not also ensured an early and harsh winter.