What do we write about when we write about America? | News from the United States and Canada


I too sing about America.

I am the dark brother.

Langston Hughes (1901-1967)

This year marks the tenth anniversary of writing this regular column for Al Jazeera.

Five years ago I wrote a song “Why do we write?”, in which I reflected on this rare privilege of having a global audience and the moral responsibility that comes with that privilege. Today I wonder what determines the discourse and directs the diction of our public meditations.

I started writing regularly for Al Jazeera at the height of the Arab Spring. This chronicle and the Arab Spring, which first bloomed in Tunisia as a late flower in January 2011, have grown together, one might say.

Ten years later, I am writing this essay in the wake of a violent coup attempt in the United States. On January 6, a mob of white supremacists stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the outcome of a Democratic election.

Today every racist cliché that American politicians and pundits have crafted to demean and reject the rest of the world has come to haunt them. The scenes of violence and chaos unfolding in their own capital resemble those seen in countries they called “banana republics”, “third world dictatorships” and “s *** holes” to define theirs. supposedly exceptional and exemplary. democracy ”apart.

Indeed, after the disastrous management by the United States of the coronavirus pandemic and the inability to stop the storming of its Capitol by armed national terrorists, it is now impossible to deny that the United States themselves are a “shit” country.

I am not happy with this fact. Quite the contrary – my destiny, the fate of my family and the future of millions of new and old immigrants to this earth are, after all, tied to this country and will be affected by the revelation of its true nature for all. world can see it. .

When I started writing for Al Jazeera, I was immersed in the ecstasy of the Arab Spring. Ten years later, I am plunged into the despair of the “American winter”.

The noisy illusion of American democracy

The idea of ​​American democracy from its inception, and as the ridiculous understatement of its “exceptionalism” indicates, is literally a racist proposition. It was never intended to include non-whites. It was born from the genocide of the Native Americans and built with the pernicious fruits of transatlantic slavery. It has been carefully designed to serve racist white settlers and racist white settlers only, in perpetuity.

As a result, the white racists for whom America was built still have a sense of ownership over its “hallowed halls of democracy.” To see this sense of belonging in action, just look at the arrogance, ease, and uprightness with which this crowd stormed the Capitol. They have attacked and sacked what has been sold to the rest of the world as a “citadel of democracy” because they see it as the alteration of their racial superiority and fear it will be taken away from them by white liberals. to unwanted liberals.

This angry racist mob was the barely suppressed ego of the entire rampaging Republican Party. With this terrorist attack, the white supremacist Republicans did to America what America has long done to the rest of the world with equal ease. They attacked and briefly occupied the Capitol with the same sense of entitlement that the Americans invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, and aided fellow settlers in robbing Palestine.

The racists who attacked Capitol Hill, like millions of their Republican supporters, fear the Democrats will plot to take away their privilege and dismantle America’s white supremacist foundations. They are wrong, of course.

The liberalism that Democrats promote has a different and more colorful constituency, but is no less white supremacist than the conservatism of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party allows Americans of color, such as Barack Obama and Kamala Harris, to assume positions of power, but only after they have proven themselves as defenders of the existing white supremacist order. No black or brown politician, for example, can come closer to a position of power in the Democratic Party, or in a Democratic White House, without pleading his loyalty and steadfast support for the apartheid state of Israel.

The drama we are witnessing today in the United States is just a battle between two forms of white supremacy – one overt and the other latent.

Republicans have a mistaken concern that Democrats are working to take their privileges and give them to people of color. Democrats, however, will not give any privilege or power to a person of color unless and until they meet the criteria that British colonial officer Lord Macaulay set out in his infamous Minute on Education (1835) treatise in strongest from British rule in India:

“We must currently do our best to form a class that can be interpreters between us and the millions we rule; a class of people, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, opinions, morals and intellect.

Macaulay anticipated the rise of Obama and Harris about 200 years ago. Although the former president and the new vice-president are both black, they belong to “a class of people” who are white “in their opinions, their mores and their intellect.”

So there is no reason for Republicans to fear Democrats – ultimately, both parties are working towards the same goal of keeping the white supremacist project of American “democracy” alive.

Today, the real change that Malcolm X had dared to imagine is carried only in the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement. And as Republicans arm themselves to physically fight those calling for real equality and justice, Democrats, led by Obama and Harris, are working to distort and hijack their message.

New York: the soul of America

This is what we write when we write about America – the active dismantling of an illusion that has Obama and Harris on one side, Trump and Nikki Haley on the other, and the fate of an entire planet at stake. .

But the soul of the America we write about is not in the showy Romanesque citadels of power in Washington, DC and those drawn to it. The soul of America is in every listless site of every small or large town, town or village, where people live. And for me, and millions of others like me, it’s New York.

Like people all over this fragile planet, we too are carving out a real or virtual niche for ourselves in New York City. It is from the meditative pulses of these niches that America never ceases to dream of itself in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and yes even Manhattan.

Corresponding to the soul of our city, the prose of our writings on America can only be plaintive and critical. It is by necessity also meditative and dreamlike, exactly in the opposite direction of the verbosity of Barack Obama who schmooz his prose in vain in an empty posterity.

It is this inner tranquility of meditative space that America allows you against the very heart of its noisy news. Especially in the days of COVID-19, as you can’t go out, you go in. For me, the source of comfort and salvation has been to read and re-read a famous letter that the sublime Persian poet Sohrab Sepehri wrote in New York to his friend Ahmad Reza Ahmadi in Tehran, another iconic poet, at the beginning of the years. 1970.

Poets from Mozart librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte and Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti to Chilean master Pablo Neruda and Palestinian icon Mahmoud Darwish joined their American counterparts Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg and Audre Lorde in honoring the moral imagination from New York. This vast horizon also has a particular Persian tint.

I write my columns for Al Jazeera from the heart of a simple and solid passage from Sepehri’s New York letter which today resonates most with the pure sublimity of his soul, where he gives an itinerary of his tasks daily:

“I paint, I read poetry, I see Yektai (another Iranian poet and painter), and sometimes I cook at home – then I wash the dishes, then I cut my finger, and for a few days I can’t not paint. The food I cook is quite delicious, except you have to add a little salt and pepper to it and a spoonful of bounty. My mother’s cooking was so good, and I still used to find fault with, for example, the green of her celery stew was so dark. How long does it take to figure things out? At what time did I find out that life means “for now”? Iran has good mothers, delicious food, terrible intellectuals, and such beautiful grasslands.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.



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