Sunday, May 8, 2011

THIS WEEK: bin Laden, Le Pen, Mother's Day, Climate Change, Game of Thrones and David Barton.

I would like to try a new feature on this blog - smaller comments on more topics. I'll call call it, my Miniposts series. :


THE DEATH OF OSAMA BIN LADEN (spelled ben Laden in French!) was definitely the big news this week, and not just in the U.S. It was also all over the news and talk shows in Europe.
My first reaction was relief (and a sense that the demonstrative cheering was too much – making his death look like football victory trivializes the whole thing).
My second reaction was great satisfaction that it happened under President Obama’s leadership because now many of his Republican critics who claimed he was more a “professor-in-chief and not a commander in-chief” (cf. or Sarah Palin or Bill Kristol) ought to be eating their words, even if they won’t. (And yes, Obama was right not to release the picture – conspiracy theorist will still believe it is fabricated anyway.)
The Republicans have pathetically tried to seize the moment by putting torture on a pedestal again and thus claiming that this no Obama’s victory but that it is G. W. Bush’s of course, even though evidence suggests it does not work see the NYTimes or Huffington Post)
This should actually be a great opportunity to pause and reflect on the bin Laden effect, how Osama bin Laden has changed America. The once open and trusting America seems long gone and the new America “keeps looking over its shoulder”, as The Economist puts it. It has become less tolerant, more intrusive and willing to compromise on some of its founding principles. Let’s hope more Americans will reclaim their soul soon. 

UPDATE: Here's another example of the bin Laden Effect! 
UPDATE 2: Good article on a linguistic explanation of why people get OBama and OSama mixed up! 

INTOLERANT FRANCE - Unfortunately, it is not only the US that has become less tolerant. The France of 1998 used her national soccer team that won the World Cup as a potent symbol of integration (nicknamed the "black-blanc-beur", squad.), whereas the France of 2011 has its soccer federation discussing capping the number of 12- and 13-year-old black and Arab hopefuls at sports academies to 30%. in a secret recording. A major scandal that's been all over the news France.
An isolated incident of a few bigots?I doubt it.
The far-right National Front Party is so high in the polls since Marine Le Pen changed the National Front into a 'kindler gentler' party (NYTimes) that it may very well repeat its success of the 2002 elections and "secure a place in the run-off at next year’s presidential election." (The Economist). Marine may have put a nicer face on the party but her platform still smacks of xenophobia and nasty populism (based on anti-immigrant feeling,  Euroscepticism, disillusion with the elite). She may prove more dangerous than her father as her ideas are becoming more acceptable. 
It is about time that France admits it too has a problem with race.

MOTHER'S DAY is celebrated today (Second Sunday of May), whereas in France la Fête des Mères is on the last Sunday of May. Interestingly, it started as "a  a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. (Wikipedia). There's plenty irony about this - it became an official holiday in 1914 in the US. and was popularized in France by American WWI soldiers who sent  mail back to their country for Mother's Day  . In France Mother's Day was also popularized by the Vichy government who used it to promote its natalist policy. Since then, it has become widely commercial both in France and the U.S

CLIMATE CHANGE. A record number of Super tornadoes, severe floods, and huge wildfires, in the U.S; record temperatures (with this April the hottest month in 300 years in both Germany and Britain), drought in France (I had not heard of water restriction in April before) and wildfires in Western Europe.... 
I am no scientist and maybe this is just the effect of globalized news, but sill, it is hard to believe that some of that is not related to global warming.
Personally, I find the change in the weather pattern a lot scarier than Osama bin Laden or any Al Qaeda terrorist attack ever was. And I'm just amazed that the news don't report this much more than they do. I am particularly upset at the French media who keep saying how great it is for the tourist industry and ice-cream sellers. It is like driving a car 200 miles an hour to a wall and rejoice about the manufacturer! 

TV SERIES: This is indirectly related to climate change... The new HBO fiction GAME OF THRONES may have had too much hype and the bloody violence and the sex may also be too much dejà vu and unnecessary to the story, but still, it is one of the best shows on TV these days and I love watching it.  
It has plenty to offer : great political intrigue, good psychology, and sleek visual design - not unlike "The Tudors" or "The Bordias". It is sort of a a sexied up version of "Lord of the Rings". One of the most intriguing idea is that seasons in this world seems to last years. ("summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime,) and the characters seem to brace for the coming winter which may last for years. I can't wait to see what it's going to be like.
UPDATE: Apparently Game of Thrones has already produced "a messianic fervor among viewers". Good - it means there will be more seasons to come (HBO has already announced a second season)

STUPID COMMENT OF THE WEEK: By David Barton (the self-taught historian / social conservative activist who wants to turn the US into a theocracy) during a conversation with Jon Stewart on whether the U.S. is a Christian nation :
Jon Stewart : "Through the founders' wisdom we have kept that [Christianity] from becoming a state religion so that their vision of all people created equal could flourish..."
David Barton : "And that's a biblical vision by the way - that all men are created equal. You don't get that from a secular world. France didn't believe that."
Or how to say something incredibly stupid with a lot of authority.
The whole show is definitely worth seeing to understand the minds of conservative evangelical Christians.

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