Thursday, September 9, 2010

US rumblings

A few weeks ago, in writing a blog article entitled Americans fond of symbolic destruction [display], I had been motivated by two quite separate things:

• On the one hand, I had just watched a TV documentary on the life and death of John Lennon. There were frightening scenes showing young Americans burning ceremoniously all their Beatles paraphernalia as a revengeful reaction to Lennon's trivial (but plausible) comment about their being more popular than Jesus.

• On the other hand, I had just observed an open invitation—from an American to his fellow Americans—to burn the Confederate flag on September 12, 2010.

One of my readers urged me, quite rightly, to avoid depicting all the citizens of his nation as "ugly Americans"… which is a notorious and obsolete expression that I've never used here.

Today, further rumblings in the USA cannot fail to intrigue, if not disturb, an outsider such as me. The most blatant event is the call by a brain-damaged guy named Terry Jones, labeled as an "evangelical pastor", to immolate a copy of Islam's sacred text, the Koran.

It would be easy to see this affair merely as an absurd and insignificant gesture made by an isolated idiot… but this doesn't seem to be the case. Some important Americans—including David Petraeus (commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) and Hillary Clinton (US secretary of state)—have condemned explicitly the senseless intentions of this anti-Muslim fanatic.

Rumblings of a milder but equally pernicious nature are manifested in a book by the Republican politician Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the US House of Representatives. I haven't read this document (and don't intend to), but reviews provide us, no doubt, with a good idea of the kind of ideas he's putting forward, summarized in the book's subtitle: Stopping Obama's secular-socialist machine. In the mouth of a conservative Republican such as Gingrich, the concept of secularism is quite weird. Like socialism, it designates some kind of ungodly sin. And the context in which condemnations of "secularism" and "socialism" are promulgated is automatically "Christian", as if it were an undisputed axiom that the founding fathers of the USA intended to create an exclusively Christian nation. (I prefer to put all those terms in inverted commas, highlighting Gingrich's particular way of approaching politics and using language. For example, I don't imagine for an instant that his conception of "socialism" has much in common with the great French political movement of the same name.)

Click the banner for a clearly-written critique of the Gingrich book by the black Californian writer Sikivu Hutchinson.

BREAKING NEWS: This morning, in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America, the US president Barack Obama warned that the "stunt" planned by Terry Jones would become a "recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda", endangering American citizens, particularly in the armed forces. Earlier in the week, a pragmatic solution was suggested by Bill Clinton: Why not simply cordon off the idiotic pastor in such a way that he and his friends would perform their book-burning all alone, out of sight of the media? Unfortunately, imaginative ideas of that kind rarely work.

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