Upside-down syndrome takes Latvian youth

  • 2001-10-04
  • Rita Bubina
RIGA - The declaration signed Sept. 19 by the presidents of five Baltic Sea countries supporting the U.S.-led fight against terrorism has provoked protest among young Latvians.

Nearly 1,000 members of the Latvian Youth Initiative Group signed an open letter to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga to express their opinion on the stance taken by Latvia regarding the fight against terrorism. The letter was also signed by popular Latvian artists, musicians, journalists, researchers, members of non-governmental organizations, and employees of government and municipal institutions.

The letter first appeared on the Internet Web portal and after it was signed by 990 people, it was sent to Vike-Freiberga Oct. 1.

On Oct. 2 the group handed in another letter, saying Vike-Freiberga had not adequately replied to the first

The group said it wanted to meet the president to discuss the issues more in detail.

The letter expressed sincere compassion to the families and friends of the victims of the tragedy of Sept. 11. At the same time those who signed it do not want to back Latvia's readiness to support an unfounded and unnecessary U.S. attack against nations that might be a shelter for the terrorists.

"We're convinced that the issues associated with their extradition should be solved through peaceful talks and by using all available political, diplomatic and economic sanctions and initiatives," says the letter. "The death of innocent people from developing nations is not an acceptable price for the renewed piece of mind and security of U.S. citizens."

The Latvian Youth Initiative Group is protesting the "international and U.S. media campaign that provokes hate and suspicion against Arab nations and Islam." In the letter, they compare the campaign to the initial stages of the Nazi German campaign against Jews.

The letter prompted an immediate reply from Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

"I do not want Latvia to be a coward and give in to a policy of intimidation and to lose trust in security and the future. This is meanness that does not reside in any country, this is evil we all have to fight against," says the president's letter. "Only holding hand in hand with similarly thinking is it possible not to let terrorism spread its wings."

Shortly afterward Peteris Vinkelis, a psychologist and the counselor of the Latvian Embassy in the U.S.A., commented on the letter in the popular Internet Web portal under the title "The upside-down syndrome."

Vinkelis called the reaction of the young people a psychological phenomenon called "identification with the aggressor." This phenomenon finds expression as compassion with the assailants, their aims and motivations.

In Vinkelis' opinion the young people have also ignored some of the values they seem to be protecting.

"One of these basic values is the right to live. The terrorists in New York and Washington have attacked this right. Their crime tried to prove that life has no value in an ideological fight against democracy, freedom of religion and speech," he wrote.