Rootless Cosmopolitans

When I was working in Lyon, the team would have lunch together and talk politics and religion. One dude was complaining about immigrants or hijabs or something, and I said something like, Did you enjoy your empire? This is the flip side. You liked the parades and the military dudes with medals and tanks? Congratulations, they’ve brought you les banlieues. Getting rich off of Africa means that Africans are going to be your neighbors.

French cultural note — that was perfectly OK office lunchtime banter.

I feel the same way about the US and Central America. Those people are fleeing chaos we created. Not that chaos doesn’t happen for many other reasons, Zinn and Chomsky notwithstanding, but this particular chaos, in Guatemala and Honduras for instance, we own that. We should take their refugees, no questions asked, until the end of time.

I suspect that it’s hard to have been an empire, even if the empire was in the year 900. Faded memories of greatness are a burden we are not intended to carry. We just don’t do it well… it makes us mean and stupid. I think France carries it off a little better than many, and I give La Revolution credit for that—an awareness that the villain is the rich guy and the cleric. That probably-not-Diderot quote is salutary: La Révolution n’est pas fini jusqu’à ce que le dernier roi est étouffé avec les boyaux du dernier prêtre. Or something like that. And if Jews have any advantage in their culture, it’s that, if they had an Empire, it was thousands of years ago under David. But still, Jews all over the world read about that every day. And now they have control of a nation again.

My family is the ultimate “blood and soil” bugaboo; we are all proud rootless cosmopolitans. I don’t think any of us ever came to America for “liberty”. My great grandfather came to San Francisco for the gold rush, my grandparents went to Hollywood for showbiz, my father went to New York for publishing. My mother, too, came to New York, specifically. Not Sioux City, where, presumably, there’s just as much Liberty™ as NY. But she was fleeing the small town for the big city, not Canada for the US.

And if my grandparents had given up on Hollywood dreams, they could have stayed in London instead of getting on that next boat. Or they could have gone to South Africa where, as Jews, they would have been considered conditionally quasi-White and had plenty of Liberty (and cheap domestic help). Or Palestine where they would have had Liberty, but the kaffee mit schlag would have sucked. But Hollywood was where the action was.

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