This morning as the Unsleeping Eye was busy telling me what’s going on in this quirky country I call home, I nearly fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard. I think I’ve said it a million times before that in life you often have to choose between laughing and crying, and this time I (once again) chose to laugh.
At issue is the Constitution of Romania, which is potentially going to be modified here soon. A lot of parliamentarians and bigwigs are chiming in on all sorts of potential modifications, including adding references to God and specifically outlawing homosexual marriages (which aren’t legal at the current time anyway).
Basically it’s a chance for every politician to get a chance to propose something, no matter how unrealistic, and then get the airtime and attention that they crave. Along these lines, the advisory committee that’s selecting potential future constitutional modifications yesterday adopted a proposal to re-introduce the national coat of arms (Rom: stema) to the Romanian flag, in effect making it look a heck of a lot more like the Republic of Moldova flag.
That’s a fairly innocuous modification to the Constitution but what made me laugh so hard was that His Excellency and Right Honorable Worship the Lord High Mayor of Cluj, Emil Boc, yesterday went on record as opposing the proposal to add the coat of arms to the flag.
Link above goes to his original statement in Romanian but here’s my translation of what he said:
“I don’t think it’s a good idea and I don’t think that every time we discuss the coat of arms we should talk about changing the flag. National symbols should remain unchanged to retain their symbolic value. A country with unchanging national symbols has a greater dignity and authority and they should not be changed on a daily basis.”
Now I happen to agree with Boc – the Romanian flag is just fine as it is. But why this is so funny is that there is an ongoing dispute here in good old Unicorn CIty about the city’s coat of arms.
In the year 1377, nearly 700 years ago, the Hungarian king awarded Cluj (then Koloszvar) the status of royal free city (link in Italian), which is a medieval concept that’s a bit difficult to translate into modern terms. Essentially any royal free city was answerable only to the king (of Hungary) and was not under the jurisdiction of any local nobility (like a duke or baron).
As a result of this award, the city fathers adopted a new coat of arms that involved three towers above a portcullis with the gate open (to signify that the city was now “free”) along with other aspects that have heraldic significance.
The city’s coat of arms remained unchanged all the way from 1377 until 1999 when the lunatic mayor of Cluj, Gheorghe Funar, suddenly decided to change it. A high school girl designed the current coat of arms, featuring a picture of the Dacian “dragon”, the Roman goddess Minerva and the “guillotine” monument that sits on B-dul Eroilor in commemoration of the 1989 revolution. Funar liked it a lot and so adopted it immediately and used it for all official communication and insignia for the city.
The problem however is that the Romanian Academy’s division of Heraldry and Symbols must approve any changes to heraldic devices and Funar never sought nor received their approval. Therefore Funar’s move was indisputably illegal.
Funar was a bitterly racist man (he’s still alive, just mostly powerless these days, thank goodness) and a large part of his move to change the city’s coat of arms was to piss off the Hungarians. That’s why he liked the use of a Roman goddess in combination with the Dacian “wavy snake” because it emphasizes the historical claim that Romanians are descended from Dacians who mixed with Romans (and directly challenges Hungarian views on the matter).
Still though, he never sought approval for this heraldic change from the Romanian Academy who legally has jurisdiction over such things. And since Funar never gave a shit about what others thought of him, it’s no surprise that he acted so brazenly. What is interesting however is that Funar was eventually replaced by the mild-mannered Boc in 2004 and yet Boc has never done anything about reverting Cluj to its old coat of arms (or heck, designing a new one).
And so the illegality – and controversy – has continued through Boc’s first term as mayor and again that he’s mayor for the second time. Over 3,000 people signed a petition to revert to the old (and legal) coat of arms and the Romanian Academy’s department of heraldry has said on the record time and time again that Funar’s coat of arms is illegal. Technically the city of Cluj-Napoca is breaking the law each and every day that it uses Funar’s coat of arms and yet you’ll see it used everywhere, including prominently on the city’s official website today.
And you can be sure Boc knows all about this because one of his own former professors, a man named Nicolae Enoiu, personally told him about the issue. So it’s a little damned rich (hypocritical) to see the Lord High Mayor weigh on on how valuable and sacred state symbols are when his own government is using an illegal symbol that’s racially divisive and has discarded an honorable and respected one that’s been in use for almost seven centuries.
Plus you got to “love” the fact that Boc doesn’t have the slightest jurisdiction over any potential future Constitutional changes concerning the (national) coat of arms and yet he’s giving statements to the press about it, who of course fail to ask him about the coat of arms that he does have jurisdiction over and yet doesn’t do a thing about.
I swear, my hat is off to you, sir, for this brazen bit of hypocrisy. I don’t think I’d have the stones to do it myself, I really don’t.