Monday, September 11, 2006

Translation of: 9-11 remembered by a French writer

If on the one hand, Communism was never that popular and influential all over the world, on the other hand, Capitalism is the subject of thorough demonization in the world of arts and letters, while passing the corner coffee shop, TV, and the university. Witness the anti-Americanism that oozes out of every pore of the planet, and in particular in France.

For example, I remember September 11, 2001. I had my mother on the telephone, and she asked me “Why, son, why did this happen?! …” with all the anguish in the world in her voice, and suddenly she started to cry uncontrollably when she saw a man and a woman jumping out of one of the burning towers hand in hand on television.

But I especially remember September 12, 2001, when my colleagues scoffed me during our coffee break, mocking my distress, decrying the “arrogance” of the Yankees and the “imperialism” of their boss, Bush. What is worse, it is that, although I can be labeled today as an artist or intellectual, at the time I wasn’t working in an artistic or intellectual milieu which are traditionally anti-capitalists and therefore anti-American.

No, I was working for the Paris police.

From top to bottom, I saw it for myself: on September 12, 2001, the overwhelming majority of the French didn’t shed a tear for what had just happened in New York. Moreover, I wasn’t the least bit surprising, since French anti-Americanism is trapped in the confused logic of its’ love of Communism.

On the first day of the American invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, only 4% of the French approved it “completely”, 87% disapproved. Only 4% approved. Four disaffected French citizens out of hundred… Or, at the time of the American presidential election of 2004, only 11% of the French would have voted for Bush who to the population stands for capitalism. 11%. That’s just one dissatisfied French man or woman out of ten.

Consider the headlines of our major newspapers and magazines at the time of George Bush’s re-election in 2004: “Bush, the man to beat” (Libération), “Bush 2: worse than Bush 1? ” (Courrier International), “Bush 2, worse than Bush 1: the America of fear has won” (the New Observer), “the Empire gets worse” (Libération), “America of in bottom takes back Bush” (the Express train), “a despairing victory” (the Express train), “Bush: can it change? ” (Le Point), not to mention the pravdaesque television news anchors who had, more than ever before, were looking like samurai ready to commit seppuku.

Don’t you see it yet?

Just look back at the headlines of some of the big players in the French press (Le Monde, Libération, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Figaro, Paris Match, Marianne, Télérama) during hurricane Katrina in 2005, one of worst natural disasters to ever hit the United States (a storm with an eye 50 kilometers wide and 300 km/h winds) : “Bush’s Titanic”, “Bush: the fall of the pyromaniac firefighter”, “Barbara Bush is afraid of refugees”, “to appease critics, Bush visits the devastated areas”, “Bush knew what Katrina would do”, “Bush was informed devastations of the hurricane, the proof by the image”, “America exposed: the hurricane reveals the wounds of the ‘every man for himself’ nation”, “Americans dismayed by the brittleness of their power”, “Shipwreck America”, “the super power forced to ask for aid”, “a report reveals the incapacity of the United States to manage foreign aid”, “a nation at drift: when America seems arrogant, racist, and forgetful”, “We were afraid to be sent to the Convention Center to die there”, “the rebels of Fox: when the country’s most reactionary network sympathizes with the victims of Katrina”.

Re-reading those slaps by the French press, I want to vomit on my national flag. Katrina killed 1500, and that’s 1500 too many, but don’t forget how many were killed by a simple heat wave in 2003 in France, the nation that claims that it has the “finest healthcare system in the world”, a country five times fewer people than the United States. 15000 died. 15000, that 1500 times 10!

Are you sure about that?!?...

That said, the coverage of the Iraq war in France reached and continues to reach a level of hatred where the objection to it and the lies reaching the point of ridiculousness - the Communist Party stiffs taking the Front National stiffs, both in love with their wild and different ideas of utopia, by the hand dance to the old French anti-American tune. And yet...

And yet America is the only Utopia that ever succeeded.

-- Bertrand Latour, from the preface of the Vietnamese language
edition of George Orwell’s 1984, published by Édition Underbahn.