“I’m Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Going to Take this Anymore!”

If, beside being battered by the news, you’ve also paid close attention, you may be sensing changes in the way people and governments react to various events. Look at the trial of that cop for his murder of George Floyd a year ago. Over the years, thousands of Blacks, usually unarmed and usually not guilty of anything but a peccadillo for which a white person would have been sent on his/her way with an apology or at most a ticket, have been slaughtered by the same kind of racist, murderous cops. Over the decades since Martin Luther King’s dream turned to nightmare, there has been no accountability for these crimes across the land, usually not even an accusation, so no punishment.

But that ugly tide seems to be turning. When George Floyd’s murderer was recently found guilty on three counts by the District Court of Minnesota, it was the first conviction in Minnesota, the first ever, of a white officer for the murder of a Black person. (208 cop-related deaths since 2008, see Star Tribune, 27/4/21). In a nationwide address after the verdict, President Joe Biden called the decision “much too rare” and detailed how it took a “unique and extraordinary convergence of factors” for the judicial system to deliver “basic accountability.” 

Quite a change from the tenure of the con man who for four dreadful years managed to play on the small ids of ignorant suckers and KKK remnants. That frightening time uncovered the ugly soft belly of everything that is bad in the US, but also ushered in the reaction of everything that is good. Black Lives Matter is now a full-fledged social and political movement that is not only not going away but set to expand dramatically and possibly, finally, bring about change.

Change is everywhere. For too long, many countries on our planet have been exploited and gouged and used as personal treasury and playing field rolled into one by repulsive individuals holding up charts of human rights, freedom of the press and a booming economy on lands in fact mostly devastated, with hordes of the exploited or the supine. The list would be long but anyone can instantly come up with names on all continents. The few civilized countries with actual governments unfortunately make a short list : Western democracies, a few others, too small or too distant or of unappealing climate or unattractive financial possibilities. Then there’s the particular case of India, « the world’s largest democracy, » under the crushing sway of Modi, that living insult to hinduism and to that extraordinary country. 

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Did Sisyphus Ever Make it?

February 20, 2021 1 comment

Back in Virginia, Patricia cleaned house for us for sixteen years, until we left the States to return to Paris. Once every two weeks, she spent about three hours on the job, then drove away leaving everything sparkling. No spot of dirt, no trace of soap in the bathtubs remained to be seen, no hairballs from the cat Pishoo and her successor Cerise (each of which she cuddled and cooed to and called “my baby.”) Patricia was efficient, always in a good mood as she went from one room to another, from one floor to the next. She had legal residence, as did her husband, but sometimes brought an illegal helper. 

When we had work to be done and brought in carpenters to redo the deck or painters to repaint a bedroom, and I admired their skills and timeliness, they were often from “El Salbador,” like Patricia herself. I would ask her why her country remained so poor when in the States, her fellow citizens worked so hard and so well, and didn’t they work the same way in El Salvador. She countered that there was no work there, and also that people didn’t need to work as their relatives in the States sent them money. I don’t know about that but I do know that I was happy at Patricia and her family all being legal residents and not risking deportation. When the awful Trump started talking about “rapists and criminals,” I called her from Paris to make sure she was all right and was relieved to hear they had all become legal citizens in the meantime. 

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What I lost forty two years ago : the idea of a country

February 11, 2021 4 comments

The Islamic revolution took place forty-two years ago today, February 12, 1979. I was in Paris at the time, Paris where I had first traveled when I was five years old, to which I came back often, where I obtained my degree at the Sorbonne and had now been living for a number of years. Born in a French-speaking family with complicated roots and history, I was of French culture and felt so. But I was an Iranian national and I equally felt so. 

The revolution occurred not long after the return to Iran of Khomeiny from the Paris suburb of Neauphle-le-Château from where he had spread his revolutionary messages to Iran, reflecting the wisdom and serenity of a new Gandhi. Or so he was perceived by the West, always a pushover for imported spirituality. The riots of the cadets of an air base were the last nails in the coffin of the Shah’s fallen regime, after months of troubles. The street followed, with a nonstop flood of unfamiliar characters, dishevelled, spewing hatred, their fists tight as they  chanted slogans about revenge and promised those brighter tomorrows that become the first line of any discourse in times of power grabs and upheavals. The government, already shaky, fell. Shapour Bakhtiar, the last prime minister appointed by the Shah, went into hiding ; blood started flowing that would never stop.

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We, the Frogs

The fable, as we know it, is that of a frog put in a pot of water, the pot of water put on a stove and the stove lit. As the temperature rises, the frog adjusts its body temperature until the water comes to a boil and the frog dies.

This story comes to mind as, over the last year, the temperature of the water we swim in has been rising steadily. We had already paddled, since 2016, in the murky glop of a country and a world twisted beyond recognition, rules, or sense by an unhinged leader who had made his way to the White House on the shoulders of millions of simpletons eagerly letting themselves be manipulated and ready to swallow any lie, any promise and any conspiracy theory. Added to which more millions who didn’t stop and weigh the consequence of simply voting Republican as they always had.  

The temperature of the water kept rising and we paddled on, unaware, though we started seeing weird images out of the corner of our eyes: news reports too extreme to grasp, unholy alliances with other unhinged world leaders, followed by spats and breakups, laws changed and executive ordered over night, nominations of totally inept and corrupt officials, the Treasury looted by thugs out to make fortunes, the rise of overt and criminal racism with cops killing Blacks on every street corner, Latino children kept in cages. 
Through it all, we adapted, though starting to feel a little overheated. Then the virus struck, and people started dying in unbelievable numbers, city streets were deserted as everyone was told to hunker down at home as the cost of survival, businesses shut down while the economy, unbelievably, soared to thus far unseen indexes. The air was silent, millions of planes grounded, and still people died, and still the unhinged leader shrugged it off with his compassionate wording, “it is what it is.” 

(On the plus side, Nature, meanwhile, started breathing again, plants grew, oceans cleared, animals on the verge of extinction thrived.)

We sat in front of our computers, wearing comfortable clothes that camouflaged our growing blubber, and we gradually became too stunned by the increasing heat to move. When the votes came in and we at last breathed a sigh of relief, we also physically felt the water cool down. While goons with horns attacked the Capitol in retribution for their guy having lost, we all started crossing fingers, for though death was continuing to claim untold thousands, the water was still cooling. Overworked scientists finally came up with vaccines, elections were held, decent people who know what they are talking about were voted in and we, once again, had a future, actual tomorrows rather than a dull, gray, today after today after today.  

On the 20th of this month, things will actually begin changing. What lessons have we, the frogs saved in the nick of time, learned, what conclusions have we reached, was all this necessary? Did we have it too good before, should we be content with less? Will things go back to normal once we figure out what normal is? Have we changed?

Categories: Daily life

This Is Not Who I Am, This Is Not Who we Are

January 13, 2021 7 comments

The racist imbecile who a while back called the cops on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park used these words to apologize for her behavior: this is not who I am. Meaning, presumably, that the unseemly rant didn’t come from her but from the evil spirit that had temporarily taken over. I’m a good person. Ask my family, ask my friends. THAT woman? I don’t know who that was. I’m as appalled as you are by what happened.

We know that for a while now the creeping non-apology all but prevents an actual plain and simple apology which is usually enough to see most sins forgiven. This one—”that’s not who I am”–is yet the best people have come up with (even better than the prevalent non-apology apology: “I’m sorry you feel hurt/disrespected/slighted, etc.”) It takes away responsibility, what happened is really not their fault. The danger is that like so many of the language tics that are adopted overnight, not only does it not excuse shocking behavior and is downright insulting to the offended party’s intelligence, but it becomes a standard. You can’t arrest me, chastise me, turn your back on me, I didn’t do anything. That’s not who I am.

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Dear President-elect Biden, please don’t apologize for the Iranian events of 1953

December 4, 2020 4 comments
Mohammad Mossadegh

(le texte français suit)

Assigning guilt for past real or conflated crimes and misdemeanors can and often does lead astray leaders and even historians, insisting on blanket and endless apologies where a sharper look at facts would better serve policy. Humans being what they are, the abominable, the criminal and the appalling does occur through centuries and countries. All do not deserve the same treatment. As an example, the case against the atrocity that was slavery cannot be watered down by a redeeming explanation and Black lives must forever be honored and protected in atonement for that sinister page of history.

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Islam Is Killing Us

Anxiously counting the days until November 4th and the US elections results doesn’t cancel or even slow down the vortex of other matters that call for attention and sometimes bring us much anger and sorrow. As reflected in the news, Paris where I live is once more under Islamist attack. The assassination and decapitation on October 16 of a high school teacher who, discussing freedom of expression with his class showed as illustrations the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (which, in 2015, had caused bloodshed with 15 deaths) causes, again, immense indignation, and more fear that this Western democracy where the separation of state and church or secularism (laïcité) has been law since 1905 will have to adopt strict measures that go against its culture and principles.

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Black Lives Don’t Matter

They used to. In 1850, a slave in good physical condition could be worth $35,000 in today’s dollars. A skilled one, such as a blacksmith, $50,000. That’s before it became illegal to buy and sell human beings kidnapped and brought forcibly to this country for a life of hard labor and early death. As property of a white master, black lives mattered.

Not now. Not one hundred and fifty-five years after the end of the Civil War, 157 after the passing of the thirteenth amendment making slavery illegal. Killing a black man will have no legal consequence, whether the murder is perpetrated by a foaming-at-the-mouth white civilian or two, as in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, or by a posse of white cops, as in the case of George Floyd. Until these recent murders, the count for this year alone since January 1, 2020 of blacks killed by white cops stood at 1099. The horrifying figure is for known and often documented deaths. Would it be a stretch to maybe double that?

slavery

Who knows how many unsolved deaths have occurred in smaller localities where people keep to themselves and wouldn’t say anything to incriminate members of the police, pillars of their hometown?

Black communities are our third world. It’s true that a good percentage of African-Americans are now on par with privileged segments of society. They graduate from good schools, follow a career path, have a solid network, often occupy high positions. But their skin remains black. Read more…

“Das Kapital” the only American value for Republicans?

Not to be facetious by linking Marx to the American economy but the title of his magnum opus seems to fit the United States as what Europeans and most of the rest of the world have been forever describing as being “all about the money.” They’re certainly right now about the country that has the misfortune of having Trump as its “leader,” Trump who is working hard to demonstrate he can fail not only his own businesses but Americans at every step.

Capture d’écran 2020-04-02 à 19.48.06

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Respect Me or I’ll Kill You

February 13, 2020 2 comments

Warning, do not read this post if you are quick to take offense. That covers a good number of people, mafiosi, petty crooks, but also those exiles in, or immigrants to, Western democracies who consider degenerate the mores of the land and find themselves insulted and deeply offended by the slightest criticism. Respect–italics, capital R–is a great concept that has now become twisted and the primary driver of any exchange between people with wildly differing views on family, society, religious belief, on virtually any subject. It has become the basic requirement–which would be fine if it didn’t flow in one direction, only. Femme voilee 2020-02-13 à 20.40.05

In Iran (where I come from, originally) as well as in other countries of the area, you’re OK as long as you compliment people, tell them that their history is grandiose, their taste unique, their hospitality the best, their virtues without compare. Any deviation from full appreciation immediately draws strong reactions and the slightest remark can be perceived as negative, and therefore, insulting. Multiply this a hundredfold in France where I live, home to innumerable people from those same Muslim countries, many of them now with French nationality. The perceived lack of Respect draws the ire and the lightning bolt of all suburban Jupiters, often first- or second-generation immigrants who have been brainwashed into believing that acceptance of recently-refurbished customs and mores must be absolute, not only from the locals among whom they live but also from the authorities of the country that has taken them in.
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