This piece originally appeared in the expat+HAREM, November 2010
“Dance, Little Monsters, dance!” screamed Lady Gaga this week in Prague, on the 21st anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The persona-shifting American pop superstar wanted us on our feet. Nope.
Security at Prague’s O2 Arena told us we weren’t allowed to stand. We weren’t allowed to dance.
And there was no way could we heed Our Lady’s call to free ourselves from the bounds and expectations of society. The few of us with our paws up ready to worship in the Haus of Gaga got pummeled by Czechs willing to self-police where security guards failed. I was clipped in the wing. An American man behind me got a proper punch in the face. Gaga’s lyrical music was then punctuated by his girlfriend’s weeping.
Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour may be known around the world for its message of peace and tolerance, her poetic narrative about the limitlessness of identity may be embraced by millions of fans. But her appearance on the same date of the peaceful march that ended the reign of Communism in the Czech Republic only highlighted just how enduring that dark legacy is.
I was surrounded by thousands of people in whom totalitarianism still lives and breathes, tattooed on their minds and behaviours.
During the concert I had a bitter taste of what life might have felt like during those days in Prague’s history. Not being allowed to dance to my hero, my inspiratress, was like being in a church where prayer was off limits. As a trauma survivor the violence around me was terrifying. Being the only brown person as far as the eye could see compounded my fear.
Have you experienced a culture clash of ironic, surreal, monstrous proportion?