Saturday, March 06, 2004

You forgot your turtle-neck!

Hi! I'm a horse's ass!
—Robert Harvey
I did say that France had been unlucky recently in the quality of people publicly associated with it. Here's yet more proof.

Surely, Yale professor Farid Laroussi's essay, "Why I became an American," was a painful moment for Le Monde's readers. Into the breach comes Stony Brook professor of Comparative "Studies" Robert Harvey, with his essay, "Why I became French" :
When Farid Laroussi brandished his "Why I became American" (Le Monde, 10 December 2003), without ever really explaining why he had become American, but rather to spit on the country where he obtained the degrees that have allowed him to take a position at an important private American university, I was outraged.
And this, from a man who is supposed to teach comparison!!? Pity the poor students at SUNY Stony Brook who have this doddering idiot inflicted on them. I found that Laroussi's incisive and deft language resisted translation, as is often the case with good writers. An immediate comparison reveals that Harvey is decidedly out of his depth (and if anyone fails to address his stated subject!... note that Harvey spends much of his essay, explaining not why he became French but rather his frustration with the conventional misuse of the word "American" to refer to US nationals).

Let's recall what Laroussi said about migrating to the US:
I chose the United States. It is moving to learn that you are offered a second chance without having to prove your hands are clean [i.e. “white”]. Neither my name, nor my professed religion or ethic origins have been an obstacle in this. The police leave me alone because here one is not subject to spot identity checks. My friends never feel it necessary to share a good Arab joke with me. ... I was already an American the minute one of my ancestors left his village on the edge of the Sahara, leaving behind him a world without possibilities.

Today, while there may always be things to be criticized, they are less decisive, less cutting, than suffering the judgment of more than five million of my former compatriots who, during the last presidential elections, told me by voting for the far-right candidate that they would never want me around.
How did Harvey miss that? The foul stench coming form his direction indicates that the "outrage" he felt was in seeing criticism of France, the object of his devotion and the instrument of his thick-witted vanity. Of those who saw Laroussi's essay, the ones more nearly approaching literacy understood that his French/Arab origins make his criticism of France all the more stinging. Harvey, who describes himself as a "privileged" white Christian and "international academic" (not a playboy), sees only an Arab doing what he thinks Arabs aren't supposed to do: criticize France and praise the United States. Pressed to respond, Harvey stumbles all over himself and, in their eagerness to print an American in praise of France, Le Monde's editors overlooked Harvey's embarrassing stupidity.

"Agreeing with Laroussi on many points," writes Harvey, "I prefer here to offer a few thoughts on my recent decision to 'become French.'" This, Harvey tells us, is because he wants "to continue participating in the public life of the two countries where I still principally practice my profession." (Which is comparing things, in case you've forgotten.)

Yet, having said this, Harvey doesn't feel he's achieved his appointed task (i.e. explaining why he's now French). He continues and reveals, perhaps unwittingly, the real reason:
At bottom, I don't believe a given individual is of a determined nationality from birth.
Which is as much to say that for many long years of anguish, Harvey could only be French when his head hit the pillow.
It remains that isolationism, protectionism, obese arrogance and the irascible theocratic reaction of the United States have become atavistic. In this country, which is nevertheless my own, the power does what it wishes. No discussion with it is possible. In my view, the US model is at once inexorable and intolerable.

....Ah! An American who hates himself: this is the peak of "anti-Americanism." Let's be clear: I am a US citizen; I have a great many reservations about the domestic and foreign policy of the United States; I don't much like the US mentality.
So, it's clear to those of us who might have thought that Harvey was a dork on Long Island who couldn't get tenure: he is in fact a post-national citizen of the world, one of the enlightened, the great and the good, dusting off American provincialism like so much dandruff. Let's just hope that he renews the prescription on his wire-frames in time for that Lars Von Trier retrospective...

...and that one day he reads this post after googling his own name

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