La fin de l’islam

August 9, 2016 Leave a comment

L’attentat du 26 juillet, revendiqué par Daech et venant à la suite de tant d’autres, s’est produit dans une église de Normandie où deux hommes ont attaqué les fidèles, en blessant un et prenant les autres en otage, et tranché la gorge d’un prêtre de 86 ans avant d’être abattus par la police. Le Président Hollande s’est rendu sur le site, me faisant me demander jusqu’à quand il trouverait le temps d’accomplir ces pélerinages étant donné la fréquence de ces attaques.

Comme si le chagrin et la répulsion éprouvés chaque jour ne suffisaient pas, nous suffoquons sous les interminables discours, commentaires, et avis de tout un chacun. Il devient pratiquement impossible de comprendre les torrents de mots expliquant, attaquant, défendant, et bien sûr prescrivant. Rarement entendons-nous des arguments logiques ou intelligents ou tout simplement s’appuyant sur une réflexion—et encore moins une connaissance—des soucis actuels. La raison principale en est, hélas, le refus de voir l’inapplicabilité de l’islam aux pays et aux sociétés dans lesquels nous vivons, une situation qui ne changera guère à moins de sérieuses révisions de textes et de traditions, et ce face à une féroce résistance. Read more…

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Categories: Daily life

The End of Islam

August 1, 2016 7 comments

Another week in France, meaning another week with a murderous Islamist attack. The August 26 one happened in a Normandy church where two men later praised by ISIS overcame the faithful present, wounding one and taking the others hostage, and slit the throat of an 86-year old priest before being gunned down by police. President Hollande traveled the short distance to the site to pay his respects, having me wonder when he would stop finding the time to honor victims of this violence as the number of incidents increase.

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As if the grief and repulsion we feel daily are not enough, we are overwhelmed by the endless discourse, commentary, and opinions. It’s near impossible to make sense of the torrents of words explaining, attacking, defending, and of course prescribing. Hardly ever does one hear logical or intelligent arguments, or any based on consideration—let alone knowledge—of present-day concerns. Read more…

Categories: Daily life

#copslivesmatter

July 11, 2016 6 comments

Of course they do. Cops’ lives matter, white lives matter, lives in general matter. No one argues otherwise, it goes without saying, there is consensus. But trotting out these pieties whenever someone says that black lives matter is idiotic. Because that definitely does not go without saying. No way does it go without saying. Black lives may matter but other lives matter much more. Since the cop killing in Dallas—once again an infamous city—anyone saying “black lives matter” instead of “all lives matter” di Blasioruns the risk of being accused of heartlessness or even glee at a sick tit for tat.

If black lives matter, there is a caveat. It all depends on who is standing on the other side, of whether that individual yelling brutal, incomprehensible orders in a situation suddenly gone awry wears a uniform, holds a gun, dislikes the color of the skin of the guy who was selling cigarettes or CDs on the street, wearing a hoodie, supposedly driving around with a broken tail light, daring to talk back and argue, playing with a toy gun, reaching for something, running away for no reason. (No reason? Being black is reason enough. Any black person will tell you that. Any black parent who doesn’t know if their child stepping out of the house will ever be back or if they’ll have to go to the morgue to pick up a bullet-ridden corpse can tell you that. Any black person pulled over for the slightest reason will tell you that.) Read more…

Categories: Daily life

Pondering Brexit

July 2, 2016 6 comments

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Repeating the same arguments–based on background, creed, social group, immediate circle—creates specific paths in our individual and collective brains. Case in point, the extraordinary avalanche of commentary and discussion following the Brexit referendum, with knee-jerk reactions and little original thought. Be it EU officials, governments in individual countries inside and outside the EU, talk-show guests, man/woman in the street, social media addicts, all respond exactly as expected. Except at the highest level of media or analysis, there are few intelligent or thoughtful reactions. Read more…

Categories: Daily life

Peace Is the Opposite of War

June 11, 2016 10 comments

Peace Is the Opposite of War

Some years ago, around Christmas time, I was on a bus in Paris, passing a church near the Invalides. The only seasonal decoration was an illuminated sign above the entrance of the church saying Paix (Peace). A child behind me read out the letters, correctly pronounced the word, and asked the elderly lady she was with, probably her grandmother, what the word meant. “It’s when people don’t fight, they’re nice to each other, no one is hurt,” responded the grandmother. Perplexed, the child asked for more explanations. “Peace is the opposite of war,” was the answer. “Oh,” said the child, satisfied. Despite her age–five or six–this pampered little Parisian knew the meaning of “war,” but “peace” had to be defined. Too much TV, too many iterations of the word “war” in grown-up discussions around her? Whatever the reason, her ignorance of “peace,” a state we all aspire to and should all be blessed enough to live in was striking.

The state may hardly exist but a think tank tracks it nonetheless, the Institute for Economics and Peace, and even produces out an annual index. The 2016 report is just out (http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/our-gpi-findings). See it and weep. But first, one remark. The home page of the IEP bears the following statement, “the world’s leading think tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyze peace and quantify its economic benefits.” So, much like the Parisian child who could only understand peace as opposed to war, we humans living today can understand the importance of the concept not per se but only through the impact it has on economics. I suppose expecting otherwise is not realistic.

So, what does the 2016 report tell us? In today’s world, ten countries, ten,—Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Panama, Qatar, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vietnam—out of the 196 existing nations, are completely free from conflict, whether internal or external to their borders.

Should we be sad that this is all humanity has achieved after thousands of years of existence and what we generally think of as progress—plodding, to be sure, often derailed, but still progress toward a less violent world than when we first appeared and started staking our territories and the millenia that followed? Should we be grateful that in this terrifying day and age—out-of-control ideologies parading as religious faith, terrorism, local conflicts, major deflagrations, violence toward the poor, the meek and disenfranchised–there are still ten islands of peace and stability?

In this report that made my heart sink as it would anyone’s, two points still stand out.

One. According to IEP’s founder Steve Killelea, “if we took the Middle East out of the index over the last decade – and last year – the world would have become more peaceful. It really highlights the impact the Middle East is having on the world.”

Two. The IEP noticed a clear trend where the more peaceful countries improved further while the less peaceful countries got even worse – producing what they called greater “peace inequality” across the world.

Food for thought, yes. Food for action? Maybe, but where to start?

Categories: Daily life

The morning after

March 2, 2016 10 comments

I imagine that the GOP collectively woke up to the worse hangover of its life. And also that finally daring to open its eyes after hoping the bad dream is over, that party let out a yelp upon finding itself in bed with a repugnant mound of flab, pretension and nastiness topped by a god-awful blondish something that in all decency cannot be called hair. “We did what last night? Can you just leave now and we’ll pretend nothing happened? That we don’t even know you?”CoverStory_Blitt_Presidents_Trump-879x1200-1453499457

Well, something has happened, has been happening for years. Like most reasonable Americans, which still means half the country and more, I dread the grotesque idea of a Trump presidency, yet can’t help but think of what we humans know but will never ever learn: We reap what we sow. Our actions have consequences. The Republican party—the party of Lincoln, for crying out loud, it bears repeating—lost its soul the day it became the party of NO. No to everything. Common good does not matter any longer, neither does any of that so last-century vocabulary, obsolete concepts such as the greater good, vision, public service, decency etc. Not that these words were ever sacred or always respected, but they were at least acknowledged, on occasion sincerely. A moral compass, even when not used well, still gives a sense of direction. Not that the Bush mafia, with ghoul-in-chief Cheney and all other assorted egregious liars, didn’t trample upon the very idea of moral compass by having the Republic tear apart countries which, though far from perfect, at least somewhat existed. Which they no longer do—ask the hundreds of thousands of migrants clinging to sinking rafts near the shores of Europe. That brutal administration was fodder to people worldwide who thought that America, for all its talk of democracy, diplomacy and respect was at heart the imperialist power that didn’t consider anything but its own interest. The tumble toward unimaginable lows had started. Or was that before, when Newt Gingrich, snubbed by President Clinton on Air Force One, unbelievably retaliated by orchestrating a government shutdown? Or was that when John McCain, racing for the White House, dredged Sarah Palin out of her primeval bog and put her on the Republican ticket? Read more…

Categories: Daily life

2016, The year of the Negro Citizen

January 24, 2016 7 comments

As a French-American national originally from Iran, I realize the limits of what I can understand of any culture or civilization into which I was not born and of my misconceptions about issues that I cannot totally grasp. That doesn’t prevent me from observing the society around me and deeply feeling what, to my uneducated eyes, appears likJNE2015covere injustice. Among these, race relations in the United States; after decades in this country and the importance to me of that particular issue, I believe I have a say in the matter.

To begin with, the title of this post. I have not set out to provoke but as a writer I like to give words the proper weight that they have lost in the midst of clamors. I use “Negro” as opposed to the horrendous n-word and to pc euphemisms such as “African-American,” “black,” “minority,” etc. “Negro” may be a broad word but it still defines a race. If I belonged to this race, I would question considering an insult the very word defining me, my skin color and my features. I don’t know many present-day uses of the word except in the title “The Journal of Negro Education” at Howard University. With a proud history since its inception in 1932 and contributors such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Dorothy B. Porter or Thurgood Marshall, this publication has not changed its name to reflect today’s general wishy-washiness.

As for the word “citizen” in this title, I am borrowing it from poet Claudia Rankine’s recent collection of prose poems, (“Citizen: an American Lyric”) which I have read several times with fascination, rage and bafflement after seeing it reviewed in The New Yorker. After all I thought I knew, I still didn’t know.

Thus, I use “citizen” as a means to move beyond blacks seen as mainly descendants of slaves but as full-fledged citizens. Not people who are grudgingly given a spot near the table where they can be grateful for any crumbs thrown their way; not chattel that can be shot at with impunity by white police officers, left to rot in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, spend a lifetime behind bars, face discrimination no matter what exalted position they reach (read what Claudia Rankine says of rulings of tennis umpires against Serena Williams); not parents such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me and winner of the National Book Award for non-fiction telling of his anguish whenever his fifteen-year old leaves home as any encounter can turn ugly, brutal, or fatal; not the broken families where fatherless children face a life with no education and no future. All this with hardly any help from either government agencies or from blacks who have made it, against all odds or through accidents of birth or their own determination and perseverance, and don’t want to see that not everyone draws the lucky numbers.

So, can one hope that, as in Sam Cooke’s superb anthem “a change is gonna come”? Maybe. Over the last few months, the rumblings and grumblings related to the mass murder of blacks by police have reached a pitch. Rahm Emmanuel’s coverup in the police killing of Laquan McDonald did not help anyone. Chicken are coming home to roost and given video cameras on police cars and public scrutiny, it’s becoming more and more difficult for white police officers to kill blacks with impunity.

Another sign that we may be in for a tectonic shift is the justified recent brouhaha over the ridiculously small acceptance of black artists at the upcoming Academy Awards. Does one have to spell out that it’s only right for Will Smith or Spike Lee to refuse to participate in this ceremony where an Oscar is only awarded to blacks  when it would be impossible not to do so (such as best actor to Chiwetel Ejiofor for “12 Years a Slave”)?

I don’t agree with the parity promised by the Academy for the year 2020—that does not even reflect the population percentage. Absolute parity is as condescending as the Canadian PM touting the equal number of men and women in his cabinet. Sure, one has to start somewhere but lip service instead of appreciation of actual competence is as insulting as non inclusion, one reason that makes me find affirmative action as abbhorent and hypocritical as distributing stars to every child in class.

Grudging token recognition is worse than no recognition at all. Negroes are actual people, not stand-ins for their slave ancestors. They are also citizens. It’s about time they are recognized–and recognize themselves–as such.

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