Recently I mentioned a three part series on Muslims in France by Mark Lilla in an email to a friend in Singapore, Peter Kurz. The three articles were: “France on Fire;” “France: A Strange Defeat ,” a review of Le Suicide francais by Eric Zemmour; and “Slouching Toward Mecca,” a review of Soumission by Michel Houellebecq. Peter read the articles and sent back his comments. I asked and received his permission to print them here:
“I've read the Mark Lilla articles and agree with you that reading the books he reviews is not a task that I shall set myself. Nor will I make a point to see "The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq" film, which features Houellebecq playing himself. (Houellebecq being the author of the third book that Lilla reviews, "Soumission.") I would not refuse a glimpse of the luscious Fatima character in the film, however - Marie Bourjala - if I could catch one!
“It's a tremendous challenge to even begin to try to comprehend what's going on in France. I love visiting the place and searching out all its food, wine of course, countryside and people, all of them, every crook and nanny. For so many centuries they have been so certain they are the best, but now, after overcoming the affronts of 1870, 1940, 1954, and 1962, after 1/7/2015 it would appear that the brightest are ready to accept that the country is lost to les Arabes. Maybe it's true. I have no idea whether there is any hope for the French. When I think about Arabs in America, or the millions of Hispanics who have joined us in recent decades, I don't feel that way at all. It's true we have a different, more educated "class" of Arabs and Muslims for the most part, and you could argue that the Hispanics who've come are an especially hard-working, ambitious sort. It could just be that we still need immigrants, as we always have. Of course we Americans face the tremendous challenge, after 150 years, of accepting our black brethren (who have been in the country longer than most of us) and meaning it, and of correcting the cruelties, injustices and outrages of the centuries, before we can even begin to imagine that we are a people blessed by God. And at some point it will all be useless if we don't accept that we have done a splendid job of exterminating our own brothers who arrived on our shores thousands and thousands of years before us. It's just that, from what Lilla writes, you get the feeling that the thinking classes are ready to give up on the challenge in France and hand the mess over to Marine Le Pen. Again, I don't think the U.S. is at that point - and hopefully Lilla is wrong about the French.
I still believe that our Tea Party reactionary, ignorant, white-supremacist fellow citizens will not succeed in achieving their goals and will gradually and blessedly die out. However to keep new ones from springing up in their place, we need desperately to retool how we educate kids. And more and more I am thinking we need to revise our Constitution. And no, I have no idea how we can do it if three-quarters of the states will have to ratify a new one. It will be a life-long piece of work for someone. Lee Kuan Yew made Singapore his life-long piece of work and he succeeded by many yardsticks, although he ruined more than a few lives and left a bitter legacy whose taste will linger long into the future in the memories and writings of those he drove away from his pet project. Lee was certainly the father of this country in a way that Washington was not the father of ours. I think old George just did not have the drive to put his own exclusive stamp on the project. He was actually interested in other things, like farming and family, science and horses and real estate and wealth. Pretty normal. Also, he knew he had a lot of young, brainy, ambitious sorts around him who would put it all together. His job was to win the war, which he was eager to do and did. Luckily he had Nathaniel Greene and a few others to help get things started and then finish the job. Plus those Froggies at Yorktown, of course! I've read that Washington and the others in our founding fathers bunch were very disappointed once the government got off the ground after 1788. They had thought we could get along without all the infighting, but very soon things got nasty and spiteful. It's gotten bad again now and I just think something will have to be done about it. The system the fathers devised wasn't meant to be abused by greed and narrow-mindedness. Who will lead us away from all this? We need an LKY for our own time, but one equipped with something other than a club. Corkscrew, perhaps! If only it were that easy - when the sun goes down, you open a bottle and everyone is friends with everyone else. A few "soft pillow" drinks and we are all brothers. Say, are the shadows lengthening, or is it just my heat-rattled brain here in the tropics?