(This a reprint of a post on June 25, 2014 when I was staying at an Paris apartment in the 2nd arrondissement for several days. Perhaps, it’s unfair to compare the great intellectual and beautiful city of Paris with Oklahoma, but we contend with our own type of religious extremism here. Following the recent terrorist attacks on their city, I agree with many people that Parisians need love and support from us, not self-indulgent prayers. There’s too much religious extremism and religious hate in the world these days. As the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar put it in a cartoon after the attacks: ”Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforparis, but we don't need more religion. Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and Joy! #Parissaboutlife.”)
Speaking of the French perspective, one wonders if Oklahoma’s supposed rugged individualism, its empty spaces, its rather ugly expansionary history in the American story create a reductionist discourse that subsumes the reality of isolation, secrecy and en masse adherence to distorted religious codes.
What we might get at, first, is that in Paris, the close proximity of people (not to mention dogs, cats and pigeons) doesn't necessarily create community but just IS the space in which cultural and personal identity remain situated. There is no similar space in Oklahoma. The Right-Wing Church in Oklahoma serves as the main point of reference, a center, but its hypocrisy and illogic render it useless in any universal sense outside our confines, and thus the center won’t hold.
In Oklahoma, nothing is spoken but much is conducted in silence or in the secret gestures of the breaking of taboos deployed by The Right-Wing Church. In Paris, one must search deeply for the taboo, and sometimes when it’s found it vanishes in its own reality. That taboo is no longer on the list of taboos, monsieur. Down the street, one might find more vanishing taboos until the last taboo is encountered behind the door marked “sortie.”
I’m thinking about these things as I finish my time in Paris and head to London. As I wrote in my “Letter From Paris” Monday, I know I open myself up to criticism for exchanging the pragmatic of the Republican election season in Oklahoma for philosophical indulgence. I don’t care. I don’t even know what to say about the complaint in the first place, especially when it comes from friends. To view and read the happenings in Oklahoma from Paris—and, of course, the internet captures the horrific scene these days—is to realize the state’s oppression and, frankly, madness, the terrible crimes, the massive child abuse, the lack of awareness about the importance of education and health care, the love of The Corporation, all inscribed by The Right-Wing Church. As I write this, NewsOK.com is lauding the fracking conducted by oil and gas companies in the state despite the connection between this particular drilling fossil-fuel process and the surge in earthquakes, which are probably destroying our homes bit by bit and threaten real bodily damage.
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