Friday :: Oct 21, 2005

French Kissing-up? Foul!

by pessimist

Things seem to be very chummy all of a sudden between Freedomland - er, France, and the United States. For instance, US troops are engaged in a joint exercise with French and other EU troops in Senegal, a former French colony. French sailors are assisting US Navy personnel with the Pakistani quake relief efforts, and France is backing US diplomatic efforts against Saddam, against Iran's nuclear program, and for UN sanctions against Syria.

There has to be a catch - and there is:


United States President George W. Bush and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso recently agreed at the White House to chop agricultural subsidies worldwide. The motors of the European Union such as France - and Germany, to a lesser extent - fear these cuts could seriously hurt the incomes of national farmers.

I guess principles fall by the wayside when the money gets counted.

How very Republican of them.

Such a change in moral outlook toward exploitative capitalism could explain why France has taken up this revisionist historical effort:

France Orders Positive Spin on Colonialism

France, grappling for decades with its colonial past, has passed a law to put an upbeat spin on a painful era, making it mandatory to enshrine in textbooks the country's "positive role" in its far-flung colonies. At issue is language in the law stipulating that "school programs recognize in particular the positive character of the French overseas presence, notably in North Africa." But the law is stirring anger among historians and passions in places like Algeria, which gained independence in a brutal conflict. Critics accuse France of trying to gild an inglorious colonial past with an "official history."
Deputies of the conservative governing party passed the law in February, but it has only recently come under public scrutiny after being denounced at an annual meeting of historians and in a history professors' petition.
An embarrassed President Jacques Chirac has called the law a "big screw-up," newspapers quoted aides as saying.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has equated the law with "mental blindness" and said it smacks of revisionism. The Algerian Parliament has called it a "grave precedent." Unlike other colonies, Algeria, the most prized conquest, was considered an integral part of France — just like Normandy. It was only after a brutal eight-year independence war that the French department in North Africa became a nation in 1962, after 132 years of occupation.

The friction comes as France and Algeria work to put years of rocky ties behind them with a friendship treaty to be signed this year. In colonial times, French textbooks typically depicted the French presence in the colonies as that of benevolent enlightenment, with a clear mission to civilize. However, France suffered ignominious defeats in Indo-China and Algeria. Paris only called the Algerian conflict a "war" in 1999. Throughout the fighting, and for decades thereafter, France had referred only to operations there to "maintain order."

One has to wonder if the French borrowed a page from the Japanese:

China Says Japanese Textbooks Distort History

[A]n estimated 20,000 demonstrators hit the streets of China's capital city Beijing and other smaller cities around the country to protest the approval of new Japanese junior high school textbooks that critics in both countries say gloss over Japan's atrocities against the Chinese during World War II, which ended 60 years ago in 1945.

Specifically, the new textbooks play down Japan's brutal occupation of China from 1931 to 1945, including the 1937-38 Nanking massacre -- sometimes referred to as the Rape of Nanking -- that resulted in the deaths of between 250,000 and 300,000 Chinese. Many civilians were hacked to death, and thousands of women were raped.

One textbook refers to the murders as an "incident" rather than a massacre. The books also underplay the use of sex slaves, women brought from all over Asia to service the Japanese military.

"Last century the aggression war waged by Japan inflicted huge and tremendous suffering and hardships on people in China, Asia and the world at large," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Tuesday. He urged Japan to take responsibility for its actions and said the protests should encourage "deep and profound reflections" by the Japanese.

Such painful wartime memories led to the violent protests in China with demonstrators throwing stones at the Japanese embassy and breaking the windows of some Japanese restaurants -- a rare occurrence in the tightly controlled Communist regime. There were also demonstrations in South Korea, a country also invaded by Japan during the war.

The Koreans tend to agree with the Chinese view.

Living In A Glass House

But, in criticizing Japan's textbooks, China-- a country infamous for smoothing over its often harsh human rights policies-- should look at its own retelling of history, according to scholars. School books in Beijing leave out significant historical events including the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy demonstrations in which Chinese troops killed thousands of unarmed protestors,tiananmen square and the three-year famine between 1958 and 1961 when communist policies led to the starvation of an estimated 30 million Chinese.

"With rising Chinese nationalism, the efforts to rewrite history, to reinterpret history according to the demands of nationalism have become a major national pastime," Maochun Yu, a history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. told the Associated Press.

A D- In World History

"Only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for history and wins over the trust of peoples in Asia and the world at large can take greater responsibilities in the international community."
- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao

Many of the world's nations have poor memories when history reports on their bad behavior. Certainly, France, China, and Japan aren't alone in this. Turkey still hasn't acknowledged all the facts concerning the great Armenian massacre, an inspiration for Adolph Hitler's scorched earth invasion strategy in Eastern Europe and his Final Solution, both events for which Germany has had to atone. Russian porgoms of the 1930s qualify, as do many other historical events - some of them within the United States.

For example, has the South really come to grips with the attitudes of John C. Calhoun as expressed in Slavery a Positive Good, a speech given in the US Congress? Or, how about these as expressed by George Fitzhugh: Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters? What of drawing upon support from The Unimpeachable Witness as expressed through one of the many versions of the Divinely Inspired Word of God [right column of page] to justify slavery, such as Nellie Norton or, Southern Slavery and the Bible, A Scriptural Refutation of the Principal Arguments upon which the Abolitionists Rely, A Vindication of Southern Slavery from the Old and New Testaments by E. W. Warren?

Considering the uproar over the apparently racist FEMA Katrina Fiasco - which even Michael Chertoff now admits is the fault of that agency - and many other issues, such as the widespread practice of police forces all over the country of arresting people for Driving While Black, one can begin to understand the reluctance of those affected to comply with the following request:

Jackson, Pierce believe dress code attacks blacks

Indiana guard Stephen Jackson believes the NBA's new ban on bling-bling is racially motivated, but says he will abide by the rules.

The NBA has announced that a dress code will go into effect at the start of the season. Players will be required to wear business-casual attire when involved in team or league business. They can't wear visible chains, pendants or medallions over their clothes.

Jackson, who is black, said the NBA's new rule about jewelry targets young black males because chains are associated with hip-hop culture, and he said the league is afraid of becoming "too hip-hop." In protest, he wore four chains to the Pacers' exhibition game against San Antonio on Tuesday night.

Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce agreed that the new rule targeted young, black players. "When I saw the part about chains, hip hop and throwback jerseys, I think that's part of our culture," Pierce said. "The NBA is young black males."

Philadelphia's Allen Iverson also was critical of the new rule, which the NBA made teams aware of in a memo Monday. "I feel like if they want us to dress a certain way, they should pay for our clothes," he said. "It's just tough, man, knowing that all of a sudden you have to have a dress code out of nowhere. I don't think that's still going to help the image of the league at all."

For the record, if one is required to wear specific clothing at the insistance of the employer, it has to be of a special nature - such as a fast-food company uniform - before any employer will even think about paying for it. There would be no tax advantage otherwise.

But I digress.

Added Golden State guard Jason Richardson: "They want to sway away from the hip-hop generation. You think of hip-hop right now and think of things that happen like gangs having shootouts in front of radio stations.

Richardson added that nicer clothing wasn't necessarily the best way to determine the character of the players. "You still wear a suit, you still could be a crook," Richardson said in Oakland, Calif. "You see all what happened with Enron and Martha Stewart. Just because you dress a certain way doesn't mean you're that way.

"Hey, a guy could come in with baggy jeans, a do-rag and have a Ph.D., and a person who comes in with a suit could be a three-time felon. So, it's not what you wear, it's how you present yourself."

That's true to a point, but if you are dressed in just such a manner and act like a three-time felon, that is how you are going to be treated. Since few street hoods own basketball teams, such a demeaner would be seen by team owners as bad for business, driving off the rich suburbanites who pay the salaries that these overgrown kids use to buy all that egotist bling with the season tickets they buy on their corporate expense accounts.

Clearly, these specific players do understand the connection between the bling and the business that made it possible for them to have it all legally:

Jackson defended his actions on Wednesday, but said he won't allow his feelings to cause a distraction once the regular season starts. "They don't want your chains to be out, all gaudy and shiny. But that's the point of them," he said. "I love wearing my jewelry. But I love my job. I love playing basketball more than I love getting fined and getting suspended."

Jackson said he had enough problems last year, when he was suspended for 30 games for his role in the November melee between Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans in Auburn Hills, Mich. "You have to listen to the people who employ you," he said. "The people who are paying us make the rules. You need to abide by the rules or don't work. I want to work."

Personally, I would rather that these multi-millionaires recognize that they are more independent businessmen than they are employees, for employees don't make anywhere near the sums that these men do. Think of the image that a union of independent businessmen might have upon the country. It might also alter their own attitudes a bit if they were to think more like businessmen:

Pierce, who said the matter should have been brought to the players' association for a vote [He's right - ed], said there are times he may not follow the rule. "I dress how I feel anyway," he said. "I think I'm just going to continue to dress how I feel. I think there's some days I may take a fine."

It would be good if Pierce recognized that without the promotion and facilities provided by the investors with whom he partners in the sports entertainment business, he would be just another wannabe over at the local park pretending to be a big-time hoopster. He's thinking more like an employee who could be replaced by just about anyone, as most of us truly are. Instead, he should be thinking about playing the game better than all those who made him rich by paying their hard-earned bucks to watch him show off on the court - and in that, he should recognize that his stardom is a function of that partnership. Anything that threatens that partnership is bad for the bottom line. The bottom line affects his income, and his income affects just how much bling he can buy - after taxes.

In addition, people would be more willing to listen to someone who is dressed more expensively than the homey from the hood, even when he says something like this:

Jackson first made his displeasure with the new rule a public matter on Tuesday. He said he hasn't heard from the league office, and doesn't expect to. "I still have freedom of speech, don't I?" he said. "I didn't disrespect anybody by saying it, so I can say what I want to say."

Let's hope. We wouldn't want to inspire a return to legalized slavery. There are far too many out there who would be glad to do that to everyone who isn't a rich white Republican male Christian - and who would then write a textbook justifying that action to the future generations.

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