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Continuing to process

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Jan. 9th, 2015 | 09:42 am

As I continue to process the occurrence of the Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath, I read an article by David North from the World Socialist Web Site.

Before I go any further, I should state that I am well aware that WSWS has been vilified and discredited by some people on the left, and David North has been criticised on the basis of the labor conditions within his organization. Nonetheless, WSWS, along with Socialistworker.org, are prominent internet media oulets for certain perspectives on the left.

Maybe it's just been a matter of my failing to access other sources that make these points, but in any event, North's article is the only one I have seen so far that has even made mention of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange as examples of the democratic west's championing of the cause of freedom of expression. One of Manning's "crimes," of course, was the release of video of Reuters journalists and others being gunned down by a US Apache helicopter in Iraq. Other names that have occurred to me are Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras.

To bring things closer to home, however, this situation is highlighting for me the extent to which I am finding it necessary to increase my ideological distance from what I was raised to believe was "normality." I'm referring here to normative, middle-class, American and European Catholic perspectives. When I was in junior high and high school, I studied French for six years. I went to France for a three-week stay as part of an exchange program that also brought French students to my school for a corresponding period of time. I was hosted by an assimilated Russian-Jewish family and my family hosted a French-Algerian student.

This, coming from the perspective of my limited American suburb, was an enriching and broadening experience. My husband's circle of gay friends from his Catholic church is largely Francophone or Hispanic. We had some of them over for dinner for New Year's Eve. Especially now, since I have rededicated myself to Islamic practices and am beginning, once again, to have social contact with American Sufis, the soporific stuffiness of my husband's friends is really getting on my nerves.There's a suffocating quality to the bourgeois world view of some of these people that is like a dull headache that just won't go away.

Again, there was a time when being able to speak, understand, and read some French made me feel that I was distinguishing myself from some of the ordinariness of most of the people in my home town. When I give a good listen to what some of these people are talking about, I can really understand what people mean when they talk of particularly French forms of racism. One of my husband's friends likes to make "jokes" about people owning slaves, and was absolutely fascinated by a former plantation house that he visited in Natchez, Mississippi. Not surprisingly, he is the one who is obsessing on FB over the naming of the Charlie Hebdo suspects and the process of their attempted capture. (Yes, they have Arabic names, and that seems to be part of the threat that they pose, so let's just fetishize that, why don't we?)

When we have people like this over to the house, I generally busy myself in the kitchen and avoid much of the conversation. With friends like these, I feel that I spend my time more productively alone.


Peace,

KH

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