September 30, 2010
September 26, 2010
Here’s the fundamental question / Voici le question essential: (Tr. anglais / English translation to follow) Je ne comprendre pas pourqoui mon connection avec ‘la France’ — son histoire, sa culture, sa musique, ses films, ses livres, meme sa radio et son ‘tele’ — etait — est — si forte et, quand meme (ou si vous prefer, ‘sur l’autre cote’), j’ai ne pas pu connecte avec une francaise et, en general, avec peut-etre trois exceptions (Sabine, Stephane, et Patricia) , les francaises. Je ne comprendre pas pourquoi je me sens si francais au cour et dans l’espirt — mais, temp apres temp mes ami(e)s francaises m’avez jete. (Sauf Sabine, Stephan, et Patricia.) Ou plutot, a une moment donne, il y a une mur qui se pose entre nous. Je ne comprendre pas et ca me brise. J’ai pose cette question une fois a mon melleure amie Sabine — pas sa vrai nom — et d’apres elle c’est moi car ‘t’es quelqu’on difficile a vivre’ — elle a vite adjoute ‘comme nous tous’ mais…C’est pas ca. Oui, je suis quelqu’on difficile a vivre mais avant que je me suis installe en France ca m’a jamais empeche d’avoir les ami(e)s! A New York, a San Francisco, etc., j’ai reussi d’avoir un circle des ami(e)s a chaque ville ou j’ai habite. Et — j’ai a jamais — jamais — vecu avec mes ami(e)s ca que j’ai vecu en France, c’est a dire qu’au premiere signe du trouble — meme sans signe — ils se sauve. Et souvent, pas seulement pour ‘un rien’ mais apres… rien! Pas de debat. Pas de conversation. Pas des disputes. Simplement, un jour ils sont la, le lendemain pouf — disparu in thin air. Et ca — et ca, ca c’est pas moi.
I don’t understand why, on the one hand, my connection to France — its history, its culture, its films, its music, its art, even its radio and television — is so strong, and on the other hand, I could not connect with a French woman — and, on a larger scale — with any living French people, with the exceptions of Sabine, Stephane, and Patricia. Time after time, my French friends rejected me for a petty difference — and often, for no apparent reason at all. one day they were there, the next day, ‘poof’ — disappeared. My best friend Sabine said it’s that I’m ‘difficult to put up with,’ quickly adding, ‘like all of us.’ Yes, I have my problems like anyone else, but this has never stopped me from developing a circle of friends in any of the other cities where I’ve lived, notably New York and San Francisco. That my French friends would disappear over a small difference — and sometimes for no apparent reason at all – that’s not me. That’s not my fault.
September 16, 2010
So the French Senate has voted, 276-1, to essentially outlaw the burka in public places, cracking down on the biggest threat to the Republic and Republican values, 2,000 women who cover themselves because of their religious beliefs. Let’s cut to the chase here: This is not about preserving Republican values, or protecting women of Arab origin from their radical Islamist spouses. This is about the French discomfort — be they Gaulists, Socialists, or Communists — with anything different. When I moved to Paris in 2001, people having their morning coffee used to look at me funny as I ran by on my morning jog — and I was barely covered at all in my shorts and sleeveless tee-shirt. One of the only two times I got asked for my papers was when I decided to have a picnic on the top of some stairs over a street and overlooking a tres Parisian park on the rue Lafayette (I am here!). No doubt a busy-body neighbor saw this unusual sight and called the police. I repeat: I was having a picnic. (Okay, the picnic included homemade sangria, but as the police didn’t ask to inspect that, I assume that was not the issue.) The issue here is not so much the police — indeed, they were incredibly polite — but the *mefiance* of the typical French person, one of whom had obviously called them because she saw something she considered out of the ordinary.
French television news no doubt featured all last week saturation coverage of the Koran burning that never happened, affirming American contempt for Muslims. But at the end of the day, it never happened, and was more about American stuntsmanship than intolerance. The French, on the other hand, overwhelmingly passed a law which clearly impinges on the religious freedom of some of France’s Muslim population. And here’s the key difference between us: For all our faults, Americans, starting with the president, realize that we have a problem with tolerance, *and we are working on it.* The French, by contrast, by a vast majority, not only have a problem with tolerance of difference, they don’t admit it. They hide it under the facade of protecting their holy trinity of values, liberty, fraternity, and equality, when in fact laws like that outlawing the burka defile all three.