Shared Reflections on Racism: A New/Old Conversation

The conversation has begun. It’s not over, and one could also argue that it isn’t really a beginning, either. But one can’t really ignore how the tragic death of George Floyd has altered everything. My own reflections on racism in America and in France are, at least, a new beginning for me.  They express a personal dilemma of dissatisfaction with  homogeneity – the French call it “universalism” – and yet a greater awareness these days of not knowing what should take its place.  It has now become a new and expanding conversation – with friends and family, whose sharing of their own personal experiences and recommendations are included here.

The comments are clustered in three categories – Hagen family members who have shared specific recollections of Minnesota life and culture;  Doggett family members who have drawn on their own experiences, many of them global, to share insights and ideas; and close friends from multiple backgrounds who have also shared their perspectives and hopes for the future.  At the end are a few personal follow-up remarks but only to keep this conversation going. Here are the selections in the order that they appear:

Hagens Building on Minnesota Experiences
  • Deborah Smith
  • Elizabeth Hagen Smith
  • Janet Hagen
  • Camille Rogers
Doggetts Building on Global Experiences
  • Kristina Doggett Hagen
  • Niko Doggett
  • Barbara Maria Doggett
  • Tony Doggett
  • Elizabeth Davis
  • Gina Doggett
  • Jeanie Smith
  • Carol Doggett Smith
Friends: Experiences and Perspectives
  • Ken Jones, WHF 79-80
  • Lou Ruch, NC Fambly
  • Barbara Ruby, NC Fambly
  • Paul Sweeney, WHF 79-80
  • Judy Mercado, WHF 79-80
  • Daniel Warner, Geneva Network
  • Jay Reich, WHF 79-80

Continue reading “Shared Reflections on Racism: A New/Old Conversation”

Personal Reflections on Racism in America

The televised recycling of the shocking murder of George Floyd confronts us with the challenge of personal responsibility. As American expats living in France, we are grieving this horrifying example of racism in the culture of our home country. The grief draws us to so many other tragedies like it – in isolation but not in inaction. We are working it out in our own minds what to do. In my case, the grief is heightened by my personal knowledge about the place where George Floyd was murdered: Minneapolis. Continue reading “Personal Reflections on Racism in America”

Further Musings on Post-Lockdown Living: The Daily Routine in Phase 3 of the First Wave

Moving from Phase 1 into Phase 2 and now into Phase 3 of the easing of French lockdown restrictions, we are wondering how our lives have changed. Not much, actually. And that is even though we are encouraged by the downward trends for the virus in France and the kudos for a successful process of easing out of lockdown here. We are awaiting THE vaccine, which means that not much has changed in our daily lifestyles. Of course, external events have changed dramatically. Separate musings have been posted  with personal reflections, one on racism in America and another on racism in France (and Europe). Here is the more humdrum one, as a parallel record to keep track of the impact of the pandemic on the daily lifestyle. Continue reading “Further Musings on Post-Lockdown Living: The Daily Routine in Phase 3 of the First Wave”

Living with COVID-19, the New March Madness: Reflections on Coming to the End of Lock-down Living, First Wave

The “containment” for the stay-at-home lockdown in France officially began on 17 March 2020, but we had already embraced it from 10 March. I have called it the New March Madness because it finally sank in as we entered the month of March. This used to be the time of “March Madness” , the collegiate basketball tournaments that would carry players and fans to a fevered height  every March. An early warning signal that the pandemic was invisibly sweeping across the world was the abrupt decision in late February to cancel these collegiate tournaments. But it took more time than we should have required to absorb the all-encompassing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. To me, it was a gradual but shocking awakening to a forecast that had often been mentioned but easily ignored for lack of a date certain. So it became my “new” March Madness.

Two months have now gone by in this isolating state, and we are about to ease into a new phase of “decontainment” starting Monday, 11 May. The worries loom large about what this means, even if it is clear that the “decontainment” will occur in stages over the next several weeks and possibly even months. There could yet be a second wave or even a third wave of contagion to force us back into “containment”, but right now that is only a reminder from the authorities. Continue reading “Living with COVID-19, the New March Madness: Reflections on Coming to the End of Lock-down Living, First Wave”

Throwing the Mustard Pot at the WHO

In the midst of the restlessness of people defying the coronavirus lock-down here in France, there was a report of a group of teenagers caught by the police for flaunting the lock-down order. They had reportedly gathered in an alley in the town of St. Etienne for a barbecue party. The fleeing youth apparently tried to distract the gendarmes, who had, of course, caught wind of their burgers on the grill, by throwing a pot of mustard at them. I thought to myself, aha, just like the bizarre President Donald Trump – throwing mustard at the World Health Organization (WHO) to distract the world from his own flaunting of the pandemic! What an absolute farce this man has become! (Or always was, for that matter, but this being the only and most egregious CURRENT example of his malevolent psyche.) And here he is doing even more damage! Continue reading “Throwing the Mustard Pot at the WHO”

Personal Musings on the New March Madness

In the Northern Hemisphere, March is a pivotal month for the onslaught of “spring fever”. And for those of us who have been known to embrace the herd mentality of the season-ending collegiate basketball tournament in the US, it is also known as the month of “March Madness”. In this year of 2020, it seems tragically appropriate that, in this turbulent month, we have experienced yet another kind of “March Madness”. And that is the fearsome disease that we have come to know as “Covid-19”. As we come to the end of this crazy month, here are some reflections on why the Covid-19 pandemic will forever be associated in my mind with the madness of this pivotal month of March. Continue reading “Personal Musings on the New March Madness”

The Interplay of Civil and Human Rights

On the occasion of my visit to the US in April, three powerfully moving experiences illustrated the marvel of the struggle to strengthen and refine the interplay of civil and human rights in the American culture that continues to give me hope that a democracy of inclusiveness is not lost there. They were disparate experiences – in Richmond, Atlanta and Washington, DC – but they all combined to renew my hope in the American culture – and in inclusiveness as a fundamental value of cultures generally.

First, I attended an event on 23 April 2019 to honor the second annual Barbara Johns Day in Virginia. She was a leading figure in the Brown v. Board of Education decision issued by the US Supreme Court in 1954, but the impact of what she did reverberated throughout the State of Virginia and the country at large over the decades that followed – and even today almost 70 years from the fateful 23 April of 1951 when she became that leading figure.

Second, I happened upon a new Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, where I was attending a regional conference for the White House Fellows program at the Carter Presidential Library and Center. The conference was great, but the Center was a revelation for the penetrating linkages between the civil rights movement and the global scope of human rights.

And third, I was back in the capital of Washington, DC where family visitors suggested a visit to something called the “Newseum”, a serendipitous venture into the history, current state and future dilemmas of the role that freedom of the press has to play in the promotion of those same civil and human rights.     Continue reading “The Interplay of Civil and Human Rights”

Searching for the Comte de Grasse in Yorktown, Virginia

 

The Comte de Grasse, the one born in 1722 with the given names of François Joseph Paul, was an admiral in the French navy prior to the French Revolution. In fact, this Admiral de Grasse (in French the “Amiral” de Grasse) was the commander of a French naval fleet that played an instrumental role in the victorious ending of the American Revolutionary War against the British. It is by happenstance that a statue in his memory, located in a somewhat isolated part of a plaza in the town of Grasse, France, where we live, has triggered an adventure in search of discovering how his role has been memorialized where it actually was played out – that is, in and around the Chesapeake Bay and the town of Yorktown in the State of Virginia. I recently had the opportunity to engage in this search, largely motivated by what one might do to memorialize  more respectable war heroes, like this one, in stark contrast to the disturbing array of the Confederate generals whose statues permeate that very same State, including the especially infamous Monument Avenue of the State’s capital of Richmond (to say nothing about the controversy over the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia).  

Continue reading “Searching for the Comte de Grasse in Yorktown, Virginia”

Perfumerie and Parasols on International Women’s Day 2019 in Grasse, France

International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on 8 March. This year’s theme was chosen to be “Balance for Better”.  As a feminist who has supported gender equality in various settings throughout my career, I have found it a useful segue into semi-retirement life to investigate how my local community chooses to celebrate this day. Last year, I was drawn to the artistic rendering of the day in the nearby village of Peymeinade, where I was deeply moved by the impressive exhibit of the paintings of three generations of women artists whose portraits captured the personalities of a representative sampling of women pioneers in history. (See my report of this event here, and a translation into French by the lead artist, Leila Zarif, here.)

This year, I was intrigued by a rather different event hosted by the Soroptimist Club of the Pays de Grasse on “Les Femmes en parfumérie”.  How timely that this colloquium would tackle the challenges and opportunities for women in the perfume industry – just when the Pays de Grasse has been blessed by the UNESCO designation of its unique heritage for perfume. As reported in my commentary about the role of past and future in the work of UNESCO (available here), this designation was only recently approved in November 2018 under the UNESCO convention for protecting intangible heritages around the world. Continue reading “Perfumerie and Parasols on International Women’s Day 2019 in Grasse, France”

Patrimoine and Reggae at UNESCO

I was recently at UNESCO headquarters in Paris for the 13th Internet Governance Forum (IGF 13). Little did I know, while wandering the conference rooms and lobby displays devoted to the transformative path of the Internet into the high-tech world of the 21st century, that this same organization UNESCO was hosting a review of applications for the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” list.  One thing looking to the future and one thing looking to the past! Continue reading “Patrimoine and Reggae at UNESCO”