Over the past few weeks, Lithuania has shown itself to be wildly intolerant and xenophobic.
The first instance came in the form of a survey by Vilnius University, which found that 80 percent of people couldn't work or communicate with 'different' (on the basis of race, sexual preference, language, or religion) people.
The main case, however, can be seen in the fact that Prosecutor General's Office has failed to punish a public display of blatant racism (see story Page 1).
The president of the basketball federation singled out two black players and called them "black assholes." This is a disgrace to the nation, which hold basketball as sacred as religion and has many foreign players in the national league.
First of all, the president got off scot-free and did nothing except offer a flat 's and clearly insincere 's apology to the players he berated. He should have resigned on the spot and disappeared from public life for the rest of his days.
Secondly, the Prosecutor General's Office let him off with nothing more than a casual admonishment, saying that he was a naughty boy and not to do it again. By letting him off on a technicality, they are supporting, instead of condemning, racism in the country.
By in large, racism in Lithuania goes unnoticed by the outside world. There aren't many people who speak Lithuanian in the world and even fewer who live in other countries and would cry foul when this sort of behavior arises.
In fact, it was a matter of weeks before the players themselves found out that they had been slandered. No one bothered to tell them. In the mean time, a media frenzy had ensued and their club had sent a letter to the PGO asking the media and government not to rock the boat.
The players were rightly furious for having not been told. One player said he only found out about the comments after the case had been dropped. He also learned that the players wouldn't have their secret case heard in court.
It is time for racism to stop hiding behind the Lithuanian language 's the country is becoming more and more international every day. The national media even tried to hide Lithuania's embarrassment by mistranslating Basketball Federation President Garastas' comments to make them seem less offensive.
While clearly shamed and wanting to save face, Lithuania has got to step up and say no to racist tomfoolery at the highest level before it can be rooted out at the grassroots level as well. The country might be able to avoid an international reproach in the short term by hiding racism in the obscurity of its language, but until it comes to terms with the problem and punishes the crime, Lithuania will not shed its reputation as the most racist nation in Europe.