Archive for January, 2011

Sunny weather

Posted in La France, Nice at 18:29

22/01/2011

While the Riviera is generally known for its sun and warmth, this winter has been exceptionally wet and dark. We went nearly two months without seeing blue skies or dry ground. This week it’s gotten better, and today was chilly but clear. While walking to a store this morning, I passed our Notre Dame, which was recently renovated for Nice’s 150th anniversary as part of France. There was a protest in front of it, not sure what for, but with my cameraphone’s blocky colors, it made for an interesting play of contrasts with the sun, sky, cream church, bronze-windowed shop building and black-winter-coat crowd.

The fact that I have French citizenship has finally been sinking in these past two weeks. No more yearly visits to the prefecture to renew residence; no more need to declare changes of address with them; no more running every decision through the filter of “as a non-EU citizen, do I have the right to do this, will it be more complicated, will it cause any problems”; and, I finally have the right to vote in national elections. I registered just in the nick of the time — there are only élections cantonales this year, but at least that way it’s done and I’ll be able to vote in les présidentielles de 2012. Kind of a funny coincidence in 2012, since the US presidential elections will also be held (I plan to vote in those too). French presidential elections are currently every 5 years, previously every 7, whereas US presidents are elected every 4, so it’s not common that they overlap. On the whole, I feel much more empowered and free — no longer having to worry about my non-EU-citizen status is more of a relief than I had expected.

Feline astrophysics

Posted in Cats at 20:17

A little something to change from the harsh news of the past week (Arizona shooting, Queensland floods, Tunisian beginnings of a revolution, Brazilian floods…). Now, do please keep in mind that there’s no such thing as cats “dropped under normal conditions”. Be kind to kitties, don’t drop them :)

By the way, if you’re on Facebook and have a penchant for delectably soft cat stomachs, come and “like” Kitty tummies!

Violence begets violence

Posted in Journal at 10:44

A US representative from Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot point-blank in the head yesterday, after which the gunman shot indiscriminately into the crowd. From that BBC article:

Sheriff Dupnik said a consuming atmosphere of political vitriol centred on Arizona may have been a factor in the attack. “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government,” he said. “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

This anger had spilled into violence before, with Ms Giffords’ office being vandalised last March after she upset Arizona conservatives by supporting Mr Obama’s healthcare reform bill.

A few days ago, an internet acquaintance committed suicide; he had been severely abused from an early age. A week before that, I finished writing my paper for a Masters course titled “Theatre and violence”. We had studied Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”, Sarah Kane’s “Blasted”, Botho Strauß’ “Schändung” (based on “Titus Andronicus”), and Corneille’s “Medea”. In finishing my paper, I was relieved; the course had been interesting and eye-opening, but I was glad to move on from the heart-rending subject matter. Instead, I’m a bit overwhelmed by this last week.

Thankfully, the New York Times published a piece that says much of what I think; much of what many of us think, who have been watching inflammatory rhetoric in the US go far beyond reason. A Turning Point in the Discourse, but in Which Direction?

What’s different about this moment is the emergence of a political culture — on blogs and Twitter and cable television — that so loudly and readily reinforces the dark visions of political extremists, often for profit or political gain. It wasn’t clear Saturday whether the alleged shooter in Tucson was motivated by any real political philosophy or by voices in his head, or perhaps by both. But it’s hard not to think he was at least partly influenced by a debate that often seems to conflate philosophical disagreement with some kind of political Armageddon.

The problem here doesn’t lie with the activists like most of those who populate the Tea Parties, ordinary citizens who are doing what citizens are supposed to do — engaging in a conversation about the direction of the country. Rather, the problem would seem to rest with the political leaders who pander to the margins of the margins, employing whatever words seem likely to win them contributions or TV time, with little regard for the consequences.

For readers who may not be aware of the specifics, Gabrielle Giffords, the woman shot, was one of the targets (designated by crosshairs) on a map from Sarah Palin, called “We’ve diagnosed the problem… help us prescribe the solution.” Giffords is named specifically on the map key, signed by Palin herself. I linked the NYT article before bringing it up for a reason: “Odds are pretty good that neither of these — nor any other isolated bit of imagery — had much to do with the shooting in Tucson. But scrubbing them from the Internet” (which Palin did following the shooting) “couldn’t erase all evidence of the rhetorical recklessness that permeates our political moment.”

When brushed aside as “nothing more than…”, violence begets violence. It’s high time that more people recognize that physical violence is not the only form. Rhetorical and emotional violence also exist; the weakest in society pay for it the most: children, minorities, the mentally ill and unstable. Whether it manifests in suicide, rape, beatings, murder, assassination, war, we all end up feeling the consequences. The cycle can end when violence’s more subtle, subversive forms are recognized and called out for what they are: Wrong. Abusive. Unacceptable. We can do better. More positively, we can encourage respect, tolerance, and recognition that we’re all in life together.