Monday, March 26, 2012

Four Hotels and a Beast called Racism

The French presidential election campaign 2012 has a new best man: Mohamed Merah. Every candidate would love to have him alongside when traveling the campaign trail. The young man from Toulouse - killed by the RAID last week - symbolized everything that goes wrong in France. Or so the candidates say. Where did Mohamed Merah come from? And where does France go to? Let's take a look at movies and songs to find out.

Hôtel du Nord
In Marcel Carné's movie "Hôtel du Nord", a young couple checks in to a hotel in Paris to commit suicide. The mood of the times is bad, the war is near. Young people feel disenchanted with their lives; estranged characters on the edge of an abyss. It is 1938. How can an individual survive in the crazy instability of a modern society without losing? Himself. Herself.

Mohamed Merah ended up going down that abyss, endlessly watching decapitation videos available on the internet, wanting to kill, himself, others, to feel the pain, to let them feel his pain. Mohamed Merah was a French Muslim. But men like Merah are not deeply religious, actually they are not religious at all. It was a "Muslim" last week, it was a "Christian" the week before, Robert Bales who killed 17 civilians in Afghanistan, on his fourth tour inside the American wars on terror. Mohamed Bales, Robert Merah: both are actors crazed by a desire to take destiny into their own hands, appointing themselves defenders of victimized Muslims, of victimized Christians, of a victimized self.

my life is not an existence: Hôtel du Nord

Hotel Terminus
Hotel Terminus is a French documentary movie from 1988 by director Robert Ophüls. Ophüls' film, awarded with an Oscar, is following the life and and times of Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyon" in World War II. Lyon, France, was the final destination of Barbie's journey into mental distortion and a gateway for the many Jews he captured, tortured and sent to the gas chambers. 

Israel last week was quick to take advantage of Mohamed Merah's killing spree in Toulouse. The bodies of the three children and the teacher killed in front of the Ozar Hatorah school were flown "back" to Israel for burial, to my utter astonishment. When Jews die, the real victim is always Israel, however shameless that claim may be. It got almost forgotten that Merah also killed three French soldiers on his way down, Muslim like him, soldiers serving the interests of France wherever that interest had sent them. 

narrow minded: Hotel Terminus

Hotel California
Hotel California is a song written and published by The Eagles in 1976. Don Henley in his high pitched voice sings the praises of California the Beautiful:

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of the year (any time of the year)
You can find it here

About the same time that Mohamed Merah killed and died in Toulouse, France, Shaima Alawadi was killed and died in her home in El Cajon, California. "Go back to your country, you terrorist" said the note left by the killer at the hate crime scene. Shaima was from Iraq and had moved to the United States in 1993, fleeing the regime of Saddam Hussein, the ruthless tyrant fallen from the grace of Washington. 

Behind a beautiful facade often lies an ugly face that wants to stay hidden. The Eagles were aware of this, Shaima learned about it this week when her killer entered her apartment from the backside. The California refuge from Saddam Hussein had become the morgue of this Iraqi woman.

Mirrors on the ceiling, 
the pink champagne on ice
And she said "We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"
And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast

can't kill the beast: Hotel California

Hotel France
Mohamed Merah was riddled by the bullets of the elite squad of the French police, the RAID. They killed the man, they killed the Muslim. But did they kill the beast? 

Once the assassin was nailed as a Muslim with allegedly al-Qaeda connections, Nicolas Sarkozy shot to the top of French pre-election polls, for the first time in this campaign. Marine Le Pen, the extreme right candidate, went quickly on the offensive as well, asking "how many Mohamed Merahs arrive day by day in France by ship or by plane, and how many Mohamed Merahs were there among the non-assimilated immigrants?" As hell bound as he had been, for Sarkozy and Le Pen, Mohamed Merah was heaven sent. The beast has a name. It is a Muslim. 

"France remains a deeply racist country", Adrian Hamilton writes in the Independent. The same sentiments that colluded with Barbie to establish his reign of terror in Lyon now help to brand the Muslims as the new Jews, as the new Nazi, and feel right about it. It hurts me to read that Muslims in today's France, Muslims I know, feel desperate about their situation. I am saddened to hear that Muslims feel compelled to leave the country and live elsewhere to save their integrity. What to do, what to say? How to be? How to live in a society that doesn't want you to be an integral part of it? In 2012, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité is a hollow phrase in France.

French politicians don't offer answers on how to build a better, a more just society. They are out winning votes, not solving problems. The question of halal meat (do people buy halal meat without knowing it?) is brought upon an uninformed TV audience as a question of enormous national proportion. Never mind that France was degraded from AAA to AA and is on the verge of becoming the next Greece. Never mind to seriously ask why French feel the urge to kill other French, in the garrison town of Montaubon and in Toulouse. And never mind that Mohamed Merah was not an immigrant, but a French citizen born in France.

The real beast dwells in the basement of this Hotel France. It is creeping up the stairs, from floor to floor, from room to room. The real beast feeds on fear, social relegation and identity troubles. The real beast is called racism and its newest offspring is Islamophobia. The real beast shows hate and denies love. It is not politicians - and certainly not in an election year - who will give the real beast its real name and stand up against it. The real beast, that's for you to fight!