by Gilles d'Aymery
"What a fine comedy this world would be if one did not play a part in it!"
—Diderot, Letters to Sophie Volland
(Swans - May 7, 2007) NEOCONIZED FRANCE (or La France Néo-conne for those of you who master French slang!). One cannot thank DARPA enough for creating the Internet. Here in Boonville, California, in nowhere land -- the boonies -- I was able to listen to the presidential debate between Ségolène Royal (bourgeois socialist known as "Ségo") and Nicolas Sarkozy (right-wing reactionary known as "Sarko") that took place on May 2, 2007, in Paris, France, thanks to Arte.tv. By the time it was over some two hours later, I felt, "that's it, America has invaded France." The two candidates were colorless, insipid, and savorless. Ségo, while fiery and undoubtedly intelligent, looked like a Demgreen, a cultural creative à la française. Her social-democratic platitudes were confused, a sort of mild neoliberal project within the European model. It looked like her only merit, aside from being a woman (would be nice to finally say Madame la Présidente, for a change), was to be the anti-Sarko candidate -- the lesser evil. Yet, having listened to the brand of politics offered by Sarko, this was a very relevant merit.
BECAUSE LISTENING to Sarko for the first time was a truly frightening experience. He advocated a kind of American compassionate conservatism -- A French Bushite, no less. No "vision thing" for this man but a mix that reminded me of what Bill Keller once wrote about Reagan and Bush: "a palate of beliefs that mix Christian moralism, [French] nationalism, laissez-faire economics laced with a heavy dose of supply-side theory and a general mistrust of federal government as inefficient and unaccountable." ("Reagan's Son: The Radical Presidency of George W. Bush," NYT Magazine, January 26, 2003.) Sarko will go after the "welfare queens," cut entitlements, reform Social Security (a metaphor to further slash social services), raise retirement age (voluntary, of course), put in place a swifter "justice" and longer sentences for criminals and young delinquents (la racaille, or scum, as he called them once), create a ministry of National Identity (non-Christians need not apply), cut taxes for the wealthy (as well as the Estate tax) in order to "lift all the boats" and "reward" work and entrepreneurship, promote and defend private property (house ownership) -- "privatize, privatize, privatize" will become the new logo inscribed on the French flag flying at the Elysée Palace (the presidential residence).
NOT A WORD ABOUT culture, laicism (the French secular model), political projects, national integration, Europe, international issues, the Middle East, the role of France in the 21st century: It was all about the economy, employment, criminality, and other social issues. The next president will be a manager, not a statesman. The France of Mr. Sarkozy is the France of the CAC40, the French stock market index, which represents the 40 companies with the biggest market capitalization. Interestingly, these 40 multinationals are 45 percent foreign owned, have 63 percent of their employees outside of France, and 80 percent of their profits are generated outside of the country. Definitely no "vision thing" there. De Gaulle must be rolling in his grave. Goodbye Jules Ferry and his non-clerical public education system. Goodbye Jean Jaurès. The Maurrassians are back.
A SAD SPECTACLE that left me pensive and made Jan quip, "I'm sorry -- now you have two bad presidents. But, well, if France wants to replicate the American model, I can better understand your disinclination to go back there. Between a pale imitation and the real thing, better get the full service!" Talking about full service...
AN AMERICAN REVOLUTION: Jan and I have been pummeled over the years as being un-American or anti-American. Jan, being a Southern California-born American, has had some emotional difficulties dealing with the accusations. How can an American be un- or anti-American? she's pondered at length. Am I a Martian? she'd ask. How can an American not be an American? I keep telling her to get the answer from Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, or the Drudge man, but they aren't her cup of tea, to put it mildly. Me, being a true Martian, I know the answer for sure: Anything to do with French fries is un-American -- and, sorry Jan, anything that has to do with champagne is traitorous, too. Drop your glass. From now on, no more Corona and Roederer, only Bud and Korbel will do in this household, ah mais alors!
WE'VE BEEN THINKING long and hard on how to become good, better Americans. Supporting the troops makes us good Americans, but wanting them out of Iraq and back home is not kosher. Something else needs to be done, we realized. I came up with a great idea: "let's go and buy a made-in-America handgun, a Smith & Wesson or a Colt. Then we'll have matriculated to the loving and compassionate Americana that self-hated traitors such as Martians dismiss with contempt." "Bad idea," answered Jan. "First, no one will ever know we have a handgun till the day you use it to kill me. That day, you may have matriculated but I won't be around to enjoy the feast of seeing you on the gallows. I veto this idea," she said. (We do have a democratic system in this house. We vote, and we need 51 percent of the vote to pass any legislation. Since there are only two voters in our republic, decisions are reached by either 100 percent of the vote or are, by definition, rejected or adjourned until one constituent persuades the other. A veto, however, is not negotiable and can only be overturned by the vetoee, without the customary bribing or outsmarting that any democratic system entails.) Out was the gun idea. Something more creative was required. Trust women; they'll never let you down.
"I HAVE A BETTER IDEA," she continued. "Let's buy a Chevy and get married." "Wow, that's rather drastic," I mused. "Can you flush these two out for me?" I asked. "Sure thing," she said. "People will see us driving a Chevy and will believe that we are true Americans, not some sissy Northern Californian Bobos (Bourgeois Bohemians) or Leeeeberaaals. Then we get married so that we can get divorced -- we'll have matriculated for good! What do you think?" Darn, I thought, a Chevy and a marriage followed by a divorce, now that's a dream come true. At long last I'll have become an Aaaamerican! "Go for it," I answered half-jokingly.
I'LL NEVER LEARN. You don't kid a woman. Two days later, back in San Francisco, Jan called me and said, "I bought a car and, gawd bless America, it's a Chevy." Then she told her colleagues at work. They were pretty baffled. How come? Didn't you like your German racy coupe? What did you buy -- A Silverado, a Tahoe, a Corvette? The questions were flying faster than she could answer them. "No, I wanted an American car, because Gilles and I have decided to espouse the American way of life. So I bought an Aveo5."
AN AVEO5!!!, THEY ALL said in unison (after having checked the Web to find out what was that) -- a South Korean car, built and manufactured by Daewoo in Bupyong. Why not buying a Corolla...at least it's built in the U.S., they interjected. "Well, yes," answered Jan, "but it would be a Toyota, a "Japanese" car. We already have two that are as old as Gilles is, and I wanted an "American" car. Who cares where it's built so long as it is a Chevy!" Reminds me of the first computer I bought circa 1985. I was a relative newcomer to the land of honey and Reaganomics and very much wanted to buy American. I chose a Zenith XP-compatible. When I eventually opened the box and looked at its contents, everything was made in Taiwan or Singapore. Only the logo was an American representation, and chances are it had been manufactured in China or wherever. Globalization was on its way already that long ago.
BUT, WHY???? the crowd wanted to know. Answered Jan: Wanted a small car, like the Daihatsu Charade CX we used to drive; wanted a car that looked clean, like the current Daihatsu Charade, which sadly cannot be purchased in the U.S.; wanted a simple, thrifty car; wanted 4 doors and a hatchback; wanted an environmentally friendly car, as best one can do; wanted as cheap a car as possible; and being an American Original, at least by birth, wanted what I wanted.
THEN, THE QUESTIONING went on: why not a Yaris, or a Fit, or a Corolla, or a Prius? An American Original does her homework all right. The Yaris has no four-door model in its hatchback offering; the Fit is filled with bells and whistles that are unnecessary, costs thousands more, and mostly comes in automatic; the Corolla has no hatchback; the Prius costs almost twice as much as the Aveo, (and what do you do with the batteries once they need replacement?). Gilles had suggested well over a year ago that one should look into that little car; it was the least ugly of the subcompacts on the market... Had we had the opportunity to buy a Peugeot 1007 (especially with a diesel engine) or a Daihatsu, I would not have hesitated, but we live in America where one can only buy what the bosses decide for us. So, within the limited choices we had, the Aveo was relatively cheap, reasonably featured, and fit the bill according to our wallet.
Later on, I suggested to Jan that when she takes the car back to the dealer to have an air conditioner installed in preparation for global warming, she ask whether the Chevy "bowtie" logos could be removed. Turns out they are bolted on, not glued, so their removal would leave holes; and Jan, being Swans fact-checker, advised me that the logo was designed by Chevrolet co-founder William C. Durant, who purportedly saw the pattern on the wallpaper of a French hotel, and therefore the logo added a touch of je ne sais quoi to the American/South Korean design. In any case, to have removed the bowties would have made us un-American; not exactly fitting the proposition.
AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL, indeed! Now, that we have gone the American way, what's next beside a bowtie? Marriage, of course. MARRIAGE! Next Friday, May 11, 2007, in Ukiah, California. After 18 years together, it's about time to tie the knot. Actually, we are going through this very lame and bourgeois process for practical reasons and little emotionality; we reserve our emotions between the two of us and need not a piece of paper. However, when (not if) something happens to either one of us, the remaining one, if not married, will face painful consequences. Everything we have is in common, shared 100 percent. Not married, our respective families could create mayhem for the survivor. They would not necessarily act thus, but they could. With the federal and state bureaucracies, financial mayhem is sure to follow. Sadly, we must face the dance. And if either of us were in a critical medical situation, we'd like the other -- not Tom DeLay -- to make the right decision according to our frame of references and thinking.
FROM A CHEVY TO A MARRIAGE, the next move to become straightforward Americans would be to divorce -- a very American pastime. Don't bet on it, though. It would defeat the practicalities that are leading us to go through this bureaucratic and annoying process. So what else could we do? Who knows, we could follow Mr. Bush's suggestion, surely seconded by Mr. Sarkozki and Mr. Blair, to join a church and start praying, for according to Mr. Bush,
For two centuries, Americans have answered [the] call to prayer. We're a prayerful nation. . . . . We pray for many reasons. First, we pray to give thanks for the blessings the Almighty has bestowed upon us. . . . . Second, we pray for the strength to follow God's will in our lives, and for forgiveness when we fail to do so. . . . . Third, we pray to acknowledge God's sovereignty in our lives and our complete dependence on Him. . . . . Finally, we pray to offer petitions, because our Father in heaven knows our cares and our needs. . . . . So on this National Day of Prayer, let us seek the Almighty with confidence and trust, because our Eternal Father inclines his ear to the voice of his children, and answers our needs with love. (Excerpts of "Remarks by President Bush on the National Day of Prayer," Washington, D.C., May 3, 2007.)
NOTICE, MIND YOU, that it's Him, our Father, not Her, our Mother. Ah, the wonderful world of patriarchy. Oh, and which color is daddy's skin? I'll let you guess. Should not be too difficult a riddle. Anyway, god bless the separation of church and state!
THERE IS THIS POOR SOUL in dire need of a little prayer, however. Paris Hilton, the hotel heiress, has been sentenced to 45 days in county jail for a series of violations related to a DUI charge. What's particularly cruel is that she's prohibited from taking advantage of what's known in California as -- oh the irony -- the "five-star Hilton." If you can dish out cash upfront, say $82 a day in the Santa Ana county Jail, or $127 a day plus a one-time $58 administrative fee in the Pasadena county jail -- $3,690 and $5,773, respectively -- you can get an upgrade to a quieter, somewhat clean cell, away from the main population. Depending on the various jails that offer such upgrades, you may also be eligible for work furlough, books, games, iPods, cellphones, and daily visitation. Hey, you are a good person who did a bad thing, and you have money in the bank. The penitentiary system, booming in California, needs your money and will be glad to accommodate you. I'm surprised that Mr. Sarkozy has not yet thought of this gimmick. Let the rich help finance the building of more prisons to house the poor and disenfranchised.
BUT WHAT DO YA' KNOW, the judge was heartless. He specifically prohibited Paris the opportunity to stay in one of her namesake cells. No "five-star Hilton" for Hilton; and no furloughs or electronic monitoring. She is supposed to begin serving her sentence in the 2,200-inmate facility of Lynwood, South Los Angeles, by June 5. Her lawyer says she will appeal the sentence. The family is very distressed. If the verdict is not overturned in appeal, they'll simply buy the jail. Amazing what a "little" money can do!
ONE WHO DOES NOT NEED A PRAYER, but could use a serious brainwashing to remove the brainwashed atrophy of his left lobe, is Tim Russert of NBC News and Sundays' famed Meet the Press program. Here is an e-mail I sent to his MTP bureau:
Dear Sir or Madam,
Could you kindly pass this comment to Mr. Tim Russert. Thank you.
Dear Mr. Russert:
During the last MTP broadcast, on April 29, 2007, Sen. Joe Biden repeated the old canard that the Iraqi government had expelled the UNSCOM team out of Iraq in December 1998.
Said Biden: ". . . . when the inspectors left after Saddam kicked them out . . . ."
You did not call him on this obvious and repeatedly demonstrated incorrect talking line -- one that is used time and again by the political establishment and the pundits.
I'm sure you know, or ought to know, that the UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq voluntarily, early on December 16, 1998, the day "Operation Desert Fox" began (the same night). Richard Butler, the head of UNSCOM, had been advised by Ambassador Burleigh on December 15 -- one day earlier -- to remove the staff from Iraq.
You may or may not be fully aware of this fact. Please ask your staff to check it out. I'd suggest you or your staff read page 193 and page 204 of H.C. von Sponeck's book, A Different Kind of War (Berghahn Books, September 2006). On page 204, note 11, you can read that, "The US/UK Governments and much of the media, the latter either innocently, or deliberately, later reported that the Government of Iraq had 'expelled' the UNSCOM inspectors. The fact is that they were voluntarily withdrawn by UNSCOM on 16 December 1998."
The full story is explained on page 193.
I'm sure you are "innocent" and may have not known the facts. From now on, I hope that you won't "deliberately" remain silent when that canard is repeated on MTP.
An informed citizenry can only make sound judgments according to actual facts.
Please get the facts straight.
YES, YES, I KNOW, asking politicos and their ass-licking enablers and supporters -- the main media whores -- to confront the facts seems a lost cause, but one ought to keep trying, nevertheless. It's a message that says that while we know we are out-gunned and have no money to spread the actual facts -- and gawd knows the facts are right there in the open -- many of us are not taken by this ride into widespread falsities. We may be ignored. We may be discounted. We may be a minority. But look at History: the ignored, the discounted minorities have kept advancing step by step over the ages. Times are tough on us right now. Reactionary thinking and policies are overwhelming. We look beaten. But we will prevail, each of us doing her and his part. We will prevail; or the next generation will, or the next, or the next... We shall never give up. Enjoy the ride Mr. Russell, Mr. Bush, Mr. Sarkozy, et al. But, WE WILL PREVAIL! WE WILL!
. . . . .
Ç'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.