Blog: “Je suis FATIGUEE”!: Pleading For The End of Innocence In An Age of Terror By Nicole Anderson Cobb, PhD
“Je suis FATIGUEE”!:
The End of Innocence In An Age of Terror
By Nicole Anderson Cobb, PhD
When I was a child, I spoke as a child,
I understood as a child,
I thought as a child;
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
1 Corinthians 13:11 (NKJV)
As the world continues to stand with France after the HORRIFIC terror attacks at Charlie Hebdo headquarters and the kosher deli outside Paris, I GRIEVE PROFOUNDLY THE LOSS OF LIFE IN THESE INCIDENTS…and yet, I am deeply disturbed by the US media analysis of these attacks.
It is mind-boggling to me that we in the West would not at least RECALL that we have been at war in the Muslim world for the last 14 years. Consequently, as a result of these conflicts more than 350,000+ individuals (the majority of whom were civilians) have been killed in the wars in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001-2014. (For more information on the numbers killed in these wars, see: http://costsofwar.org/
Yet, time and again, American journalists stand before and ask the same inane questions:
“Why did this happen”?
“How did these individuals become radicalized”?
“Who helped these individuals plan such an attacks”?
“Is Islam to blame”?
“Might this happen in America”?
Followed by the standard responses:
“They hate us for our freedom(s).
“We are not afraid”.
“We are united in our fight against terror”.
Consequently, millions march with their leaders in the streets of Paris against terror ---while their societies IMPLODE under the weight of economic inequality, indulgent militarism, ethnic conflict and racial injustice.
In Stephanie Giry’s (2006) very balanced Foreign Affairs article “France & Its Muslims”, Giry reports:
“France's experience with integration has been shaped by a unique combination of history, philosophy, and contemporary concerns, which together have produced a stop-and-start immigration policy and a wariness about Islam…*Muslims and immigrants desire to assimilate has sometimes been met with a form of discrimination fueled by nativism and a deep distrust of Islam that has made it harder for them to find homes and jobs. But what has turned such vexing problems into crushing burdens is the economic stagnation that has afflicted the whole country and defied reform efforts for three decades.
…Unemployment is believed to affect 30 percent of French citizens of Algerian and Moroccan descent, compared with ten percent of the population at large, and the jobs they do get are more often temporary or beneath their qualifications. As a result, they are conspicuously absent from high-visibility posts in, say, top corporations and the media.
Jean-François Amadieu, a Sorbonne professor who runs the Observatoire des Discriminations, a think tank that studies discrimination in the workplace, found that of two French job applicants with identical credentials, the one whose name sounded Moroccan was six times less likely to get an interview than the one whose name sounded Franco-French.
*Muslims and immigrants often live in low-income neighborhoods that ring major cities, usually in projects that were designed as cheap, temporary housing for young, lower-middle-class baby boomers in the 1960s…The resulting ghettoization of the projects has only been reinforced over time, despite repeated injections of remedial funds by the government.
The projects have also bred delinquency, which has fed negative public perceptions of immigrant communities. Farhad Khosrokhavar, a sociologist at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, has found that Muslims, who constitute seven to eight percent of the total French population, may account for more than 50 percent of France's prisoners. He adds that this is the result of socioeconomic factors rather than religion. But such caveats often get lost while the statistics stick, reinforcing the common conflation of criminality with immigration. The police share such attitudes, which itself breeds distrust of authority among teenagers in the projects. To read Giry’s entire article, see: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/61919/stÃ©phanie-giry/france-and-its-muslims
*Wording “Muslim and immigrant communities” added here for the comprehension of the reader.
Consequently, as one who moved in and out of Francophone and Muslim West Africa and France for graduate studies, I have stared at my television screen over the last week deeply shaken by the superficiality of the analysis regarding immigrant communities in France.
Most disturbing is the way that our media makers stand before us like deer in headlights recounting terror attacks in the West with understandable shock, indignation and outrag. YET, they fail to include in their conversations and implications of the fact that the thousands of Muslims who have been dying in the War on Terror for over a decade.
As “Westerners”/ citizens of democracies, our commitment to OUR OWN INNOCENCE AND OUR FIERCE JUSTIFICATION OF OUR “JUST” WARS “ is shabbily erected on a heap of drones, weapons, and the bodies of thousands who we have killed (or allowed to be killed) in our names.
AGAIN, HEAR AND UNDERSTAND ME CLEARLY:
I DO NOT DEFEND ANYTHING ABOUT THESE VICIOUS ATTACKS, BUT I AM AT LEAST WILLING TO CONSIDER HOW WE GOT HERE… AND KEEP GETTING HERE.
Time after time, we watch young, potentially productive citizens TAKE OUR LIVES AND TAKE THEIR OWN LIVES because they have lost faith in the empty promises of too many Western democracies. Democracies that leave them jobless, un(der)-educated and with few options beyond subsisting on the outskirts of “shining cities on hills”…or they may be well-heeled young people who have grown weary of being hated for their race, nationality or faith.
As someone who has spent the last decade observing the gun-saturated, under-resourced and menaced communities in my hometown of Chicago, the radicalization of hopeless young men (and women) who see gun violence as their only option ISN’T LOST ON ME AT ALL.
While I was completing my dissertation, I had the opportunity to live in Bordeaux, France (1999) and Paris, France (2004) and met many Africans and Arabs who shared with me their difficulties getting jobs to support families, their experiences with police harassment and street surveillance and other daily indignities. I, myself, noticed that the only time I saw people of color on French television were in Hip Hop videos, African American sitcoms or in the daily crime roundup in orange jumpsuits. So, we shared the experiences of being non-White, “the other”, “the outsider” in your own country. Even as an American PhD candidate--- I lived and moved in France mindful that MY BROWN, FEMALE BODY WOULD ALWAYS MATTER in my daily interactions in French society.
In a recent article “Reparons ensemble l’injustice faite à la jeunesse” ( roughly translated as : “WE must repair together the injustices done to the youth”) from Le Monde, 1/10/2015), filmmaker Luc Bresson laments the conditions of immigrant youth in France arguing:
“Basée sur l’argent, le profit, la ségrégation, le racisme. Dans certaines banlieues, le chômage des moins de 25 ans atteint 50 %. On t’écarte pour ta couleur ou ton prénom. On te contrôle dix fois par jour, on t’entasse dans des barres d’immeubles et personne ne te représente. Qui peut vivre et s’épanouir dans de telles conditions ?...On coupe et vend le bois du pommier, et après, on s’étonne de ne plus avoir de fruits.”
Bresson offers (in my crude translations):
“Living with little money and within the confines of segregation and racism...
Where in certain suburbs joblessness is between 25-50% in some cases…
Where one is constantly “carded” (asked to show ones identity card) because of one’s race or name…
Where you are constantly stopped or surveilled by police 10 times a day …
Where you are crammed into buildings where no one cares about you…
WHO can live---much less blossom—in these conditions?
You cut down the apple tree and sells the wood…and then you are surprised because there is no fruit???”
To read the full arcticle, see: http://mobile.lemonde.fr/police-justice/article/2015/01/10/reparons-ensemble-l-injustice-faite-a-la-jeunesse_4553440_1653578.html#meter_toaster
Therefore, in all the discussion of 10,000 security forces in the streets of Paris and increased surveillance of the 5000+ radicalized subjects in Paris as the war against extremism ramps up, I wonder about a different set of expenditures that might also be considered:
WHO WILL INVEST IN MUSLIM & IMMIGRANT YOUTH OF FRANCE?
WHO WILL REACH OUT TO MUSLIM & IMMIGRANT YOUTH IN FRANCE?
WHO WILL OFFER SPACE FOR THEIR OWN CONCERNS AND FEARS ABOUT TERROR, RADICALIZATION AND THEIR ROLE IN 21st CENTURY FRANCE?
WHO WILL MENTOR THEM?
WHO WILL OFFER THEM JOBS AND OPPORTUNITIES?
WHO WILL SCHOLARSHIP THEM INTO A BETTER SOCIO-ECONOMC STRATA OF FRENCH SOCIETY?
WHO WILL OFFER THEM AN ALTERNATIVE TO A LIFE OF MURDER, MARTYRDOM OR INCARCERATION?
WHO WILL HELP THEM LIVE FOR FRANCE, FAMILY, FAITH AND THEIR FUTURE?
...AND NOT RESIGN THEMSELVES TO KILL AND BE KILLED BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO SUPPORT OR STABILITY BY WHICH TO WORK AT THE AFOREMENTIONED GOALS?
Why can’t we see?
WHY WON’T WE SEE?
Our children, our family members, our neighbors, our colleagues, our fellow citizens around the globe have lost faith in the promises they cannot even reach in the West.
Simultaneously, Western democracies have taught them that violence/war is the way to resolve conflict between nations… and they have learned that lesson horribly well.
If we won’t take responsibility for the terror and help our children by ending these costly, brutal and heinous wars--- and ask forgiveness for this decade long season of destruction---can we expect them to do anything more than continue to inflict their armed rampage of suffering on us all?
And though I have the gift of prophecy,
and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and though I have all faith,
so that I could remove mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2 (NKJV)
---Nicole Anderson Cobb, PhD
Nicole Anderson Cobb, PhD, is currently an adjunct lecturer for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Department of African American Studies.
She is also the author of TANGLED, an award-winning play that examines gun violence in Chicago: http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/nicole-anderson-cobb-phd/tangled-a-dramedy-about-gun-violence-in-the-age-of-obama/paperback/product-20930899.html
Finally, she is also the convening playwright of The GunPlay(s) Competition 2013-2014, a competition focused on plays that examine gun violence in American life. For more information: http://www.samaritanroadproductions.com/contact-nicole-anderson-cobb-phd-at-samaritan-road-productions.htm