I realize that we are in the middle of the calendar year, but I already must call the best political picture of the year. Okay, we need to admit that it is not technically a photograph but a screenshot of a TV show; it depicts a scene so packed with political symbols and emotions that I cannot resist nominating it for this title.
It is a scene from the studio of Polsat News. The guests of the show were a councilor from the city of Warsaw; Joanna Staniszkis from the liberal Civic Coalition (KO); and Jan Śpiewak, a member of the Wolne Miasto Warszawa (Free City of Warsaw) activist group.
So, what is the backstory of this photo?
At some point, a discussion broke out on the topic of why there is no street in Warsaw named after the late Polish President Lech Kaczyński, who also served as the mayor of Warsaw before he became president of the country. Kaczyński, along with 95 other people, tragically died in the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia.
When the host of the program proposed that the name of Lech Kaczyński should be given to one of the main roads in Warsaw, Staniszkis, without hesitation, said that the street is “too decent” to be named after Lech Kaczyński. The current name of the street, Armii Ludowej (People’s Army), was the name of a communist partisan force created by Soviet agents in Poland during World War II.
“The president of your country! A man, who died in a catastrophe. The leader of your city. An opposition activist (under communist regime in Poland),” said the host of the show in response to the comment made by the Civic Coalition politician about Lech Kaczyński.
“We are not pleased with his twin brother, who is behaving simply terribly,” Staniszkis said. Lech Kaczyński’s twin brother, Jarosław Kaczyński, is the deputy prime minister of Poland and the leader of the current ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
This led to the moment captured by the image mentioned at the beginning of the article. Jan Śpiewak, who had until then been looking at Staniszkis in shock and disbelief, could not take it anymore and grabbed his head.
“God, I cannot believe what I am hearing,” he said.
His reaction was sincere. There was no pretending, it had no political goals. His behavior indicated that he had simply had enough and could not stand this nonsense anymore.
His “facepalm” will probably soon become a hit on the internet and a template for many memes. Why? Because Śpiewak’s reaction to the mentality of the opposition, which runs counter to common sense and decency, is something that more and more of us can relate to.
More and more of us “cannot believe what we are hearing” and have simply had enough.
This is perhaps the symbolic meaning of this photo: At some point, nothing else can be done other than grabbing your head and stating “that’s enough.”