Sunday, August 15, 2010

Americans fond of symbolic destruction

Personally, the only act of "symbolic destruction" in which I've ever participated was the elimination by flames of the previous owner's rubbish at Gamone in February 1991.

This operation was conducted expertly, in an ambiance of joy, by my son François and his friends Philippe and Boubeker.

A primordial association exists between burning and purification or cleansing. On the other hand, I draw the line at religious sacrifice, which I've always looked upon as one of the most barbaric and psychopathic concepts that the mixed-up mind of Man has ever concocted.

In certain contexts of delusion, the destruction of an old order is seen as a sacrifice to the new order. That was the spirit in which the Nazis burned books:

Yesterday, on French TV, I watched an excellent documentary on John Lennon, who has been thrust momentarily into the news because his killer's sixth attempt at parole has just been postponed until September.

Everybody's familiar with the scenes of mass hysteria that occurred in many places throughout the world when the Beatles were at the height of their fame. But we should not forget other frightening scenes of hysteria, in the USA, following Lennon's amusingly blasphemous remark about their being more popular than Jesus Christ. Hordes of American adults and children scrambled to burn everything they could find concerning the Beatles.

I've just come across a US invitation to burn a flag next September 12.

This is said to be a protest against the American Right's exploitation of racial prejudice for political gain, and the proposed flag-burnings will coincide with the annual Tea Party festivities. If you're motivated, please be careful. For God's sake, don't burn the wrong flag! To help you adjust your sights, here's the flag you're being asked to destroy:

The organizers of Burn the Confederate Flag Day suggest that participants might throw parties, dress up as clowns, and film everything for the web.

Ah, dear mad America. You ain't never learned nothin', and you probably never will. You've got burning in your brain, destruction in your DNA, a deadly amalgam of God and guns in your genes.


  1. Don't paint all of us "ugly Americans" with your broad brush, sir. Some of us (even those of us living in Nebraska) are vegetarian, atheist, same-sex couples who are well on their way to being suitably housebroken to be allowed out into the rest of the world... ;-)

  2. I agree that it's wrong to seize upon something that might be associated with a certain percentage of Americans, and to talk as if this something could be generalized to the entire population. So, I was being untruthful in suggesting that all Americans are "fond of symbolic destruction". And the final paragraph of my blog post, in which I address myself to "dear mad America", was exaggerated and indeed dishonest.

    In mild self-defense, I would say that this tendency to generalize arises in what might be called majority situations. A good example is the case of the assassination of John F Kennedy. Today, I would be tempted to generalize in the following haphazard style: "America doesn't know who killed President Kennedy, but they're convinced it wasn't Lee Harvey Oswald. At least not on his own…" That's a certain approximative way of summarizing the fact that some 70% of polled Americans said they didn't believe in the conclusions of the Warren report.

    It's hard to write effectively in a readable style (except in an academic thesis or a scientific article) without exaggerating slightly and generalizing harmlessly from time to time. Fortunately, there are so many admirable and open-minded Americans, with huge talents in writing and constant access to the media, that outsiders like me are able to learn so much about your intriguing nation and its fine people.