faith; religion is a bond, the fulfiDment of an obligation. For allrnI knew, Slovaks might be less spiritual, less moral than the morerncasually observant Czechs, but the willingness to get up onrnSunday morning must count for something.rnI happened to be in Prague on Palm Sunday, and I asked thernclerk in my lovely hotel (U Pava in Mala Strana), where I couldrnattend services at 9:00 or later. Wearily dragging out a book,rnshe discovered that I could go to a Franciscan church on thernother side of the Charles Bridge, right behind the statue of thernEmperor Charles. The church was crowded with almost asrnmanv tourists as worshipers. Most of the locals were old women,rnwho were as slow to stand or kneel as the’ were quick to sit.rnAfterwards I made my way to the Tyn church, hoping to getrna look inside, and came upon the conclusion of a service andrnprocession that had started elsewhere. The Cardinal Archbishoprnwas presiding in all his considerable glory. I had seen thernCardinal a few nights before, when I attended a special vigil inrnthe cathedral up within the Ilrad. It was mv first night inrnPrague, and as I watched the nuns rehearsing their music, 1 becamernconxinced that my jetlag was causing hallucinations.rnThese were very strange sisters, dressed in crudely archaicrnhabits that were cut in an avant-garde mode. Each one mightrnhave been a beauty queen, with an alluring smile and a wa’ ofrnmoving less reminiscent of the cloister than of the burlesquerntheater. It dawned on me that the nuns and monks were performersrnpaid to put on a show, something like the Italian poprngroup I had seen doing their hit “Giuglio” (a testimonial to thernChristian Democrat Andreotti) dressed in clerical habits. Butrnthat bit of amusing blasphemy was staged at a rock concert atrnthe Roman arena in Verona. This was in a cathedral and in thernpresence of the Archbishop at a ceremony honoring a conferencernon family values.rnThat, I suppose, is the problem with values. If they don’t fit,rnthey can always be exchanged. As I walked all over Prague thatrnPalm Sunda’, the material me was glad all the shops were open,rnand I covild spend the day buying darky (i.e., gifts; the free-enterprisingrnCzechs have not yet reopened the slae trade). In thernafternoon we stopped in to look at St. James Church, and I wasrnsurprised to find it full, until I realized that the crowd was madernup of German tourists waiting for a free Dvorak organ recital.rnWalking back through the Staro Mesto square, we found arnmob of Czechs (infiltrated by snake-dancing tourists in funnyrnhats), all listening to a group of middle-aged women playing oldrnrock-and-roll and eountr- songs, like “Lonesome Me,” “Jambalaya,”rncen “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” M favorite was arnCzech rendition of “Blowing in the Wind.” The musiciansrnplayed better than most Americans—the fiddle player was arnclassically trained violinist—but as I listened to the Peter, Paul,rnand Mary harmonics floating o’cr the 70’s rock backup, all Irncould think of was Bob Dylan’s inane lyric: “How many deathsrnwill it take till they know that too many people have died?” If itrnwere not for the militar-industrial complex, apparently, wernwould all li’e forever. I could not help thinking that these peoplernalmost deserve to become Americans, which is already whatrnmany of them are pretending to be.rnThe next morning I took one last look at Prague from m’rnfourth (actually fifth) floor window. Across the Vltava churchesrnand theaters rose up in the earl’ sunlight like an cngraingrnin a fairy-book. More than any city I have ever seen, Prague isrnEurope, East and West, a strangely harmonious hodgepodge ofrnarchitecture that seemed designed to refute Descartes’ contentionrnthat cities would be more beautiful if thev were designedrnby one man. Too bad, I remarked to a xenophobic Americanrnfriend, that it is so full of tourists. “Too bad,” he replied,rn”it’s so full of Czechies.”rnIwould not wish to be unkind to the Czechs, whose virtues Irnadmire. They are a hardworking, serious, and cultivated people,rnbut manv visitors I spoke with found them slv and sullen.rnAn older friend observed to me that in fie days he never met arnCzech who looked him in the eye. Compared with their neighborsrn—Poles and Slovaks—Czechs strike outsiders as more intellectualrnbut less emotional and less religious—more like Yankeesrnand Englishmen, if that is not an insult to the Czechs.rnMy xenophobic friend gave a lecture arguing that Americarnshould never have involved itself in foreign wars. Some of thernCzechs were outraged: What I want to know, asked one ofrnthem, is would mv country be free if America had not stood uprnto the Russians for nearly 50 years? The obvious answer is thatrnit is not our business to make them free. It never was. ThernCzechs lost their liberty in the 1620’s, when they started a rebellionrnagainst the Holy Roman Empire and then gave up thernstruggle and opened the gates of Prague to the imperial forces.rnAt Bcla Hora, the battle that sealed their doom, the Bohemianrnarm)’ consisted largely of Germans, while the imperial soldiersrnwere from ItaK, Burgund), and the Nethcdands. Perhaps therngreatest winner of the ill-starred bid for Bohemian independencernwas the shirttail Bohemian nobleman and Lutheranrnturncoat who became the greatest Catholic general of the ThirtrnYears War and built an enormous pleasure palace in Prague.rnWallenstein’s gardens are now, appropriately, home to thernCzech ministry of culture, whose first order of business shouldrnbe to decide what Czech culture is. The answer toda- wouldrnseem to be that Prague, at least, can be celebrated as the homernof a German novelist and the backdrop for Mission Impossible.rnIn fact, the Czechs had begun to lose their identity even earlier,rnvhen Bohemian Kings invited in large numbers of Germans,rnwho gradually established themseUes m a superior position.rnThe Czechs’ great king, the Emperor Charles IV, isrncommemorated all over Prague, but it was Charles who did thernmost to promote the suicidal folly of a multiethnic state. As thernGermans inevitably achieved economic and political dominancernwithin the German Empire, the Czechs learned to despiserntheir Slavic cousins and to regard themselves as the GermanrnSlavs.rnWhy did the Czechs commit national suicide? One reasonrnwas that the Christian kings wanted allies against pagan Slavs,rnincluding members of their own families. But even then, thernGermans were more industrious and ingenious than the Slavs,rnand they created the industrv and technology that made Bohemiarnwealthy. One can imagine Charles IV using the same argumentsrnemployed today by Chambers of Commerce all overrnAmerica when they lure foreign industries from Germany andrnJapan, from business leaders calling for an end to immigrationrnrestrictions. A country that cannot surie without the annualrninvasion of Chinese engineering students and Indian physiciansrnprobably does not deserve to survive.rnAfter Worid War I, Czechs achieved the goal of an independentrnnation but roped in the Slovaks more or less unwillingly.rnHitler detached them from the country and then allowed themrnto have a puppet state, but there was real resistance against thernGermans. We encouraged them to nsc up, and did nothingrn(just as we did in Hungary and then in Czeehoslox’akia in ’68).rnAfter World War II, the Czechs gave the Germans a taste ofrn)ULY 1997/11rnrnrn