Thingish Things

Spring Sphere Fear

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Apr• 21•11

France’s attempt to ban veils worn by Muslim women through me for a loop.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  In doing so, France, the liberal Mecca – is it okay to say that? – flagrantly offended the Muslim faith.  Why would it do that?

The action is counterintuitive to that nation’s reflexively egalitarian demeanor toward minorities.  I could easily see the French insulting majority Catholics or Huguenot  Protestants even, but Islam is a religion that liberals, especially French liberals, fall over themselves to defend.  Why would they do something so…reactionary?

It was bugging me all week, but then came clarity in the shape of a sphere, a Spring Sphere to be exact. For those who you not familiar with that orb, think Easter Egg in Seattle, which is exactly what it is. A teacher in that Northwest Territory, renamed Easter Eggs “Spring Spheres” in her school this year in an ostensible effort to protect the feelings of non-Christians, theoretically including Hijab-wearing physicists at Microsoft.

The two stories rattled about in my head all week, seeming somehow related.  But I wasn’t sure how.  In one case,  Easter was being cast aside to protect the feelings of Muslims and Jews, and in the other, Muslims and Jews were being blatantly insulted (skull caps were banned, too. ) How could these seemingly disparate actions stem from the same belief cell?

Then it hit me:  Protecting feelings has nothing to do with either.  Sameness does – the philosophy of a single secular truth to which  both French and American liberals adhere.  Banning Christmas Trees and renaming Easter Eggs has nothing to do with sparing feelings of the odd man out; it has everything to do, instead, with creating uniformity of opinion, a world where everyone sees things the same way.

French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozi comes right out and says it: “The full veil is not welcome in France because it is contrary to our values…”  — he continues his sentence with a clever rhetorical oblique — “ …and contrary to the ideals of we have of a woman’s dignity.”  If this were about women’s dignity, why would the wearing of skull caps be banned in addition to headscarves?

What Sarkozi is really saying is that the values of the 21st Century French state, as his government sees them, are not only universally “correct”, they are physically enforceable.  Pardon me for suggesting it, but that’s dangerous thinking.

The case of the Easter Eggs is perfectly in line with it.  The French are just a couple of decades ahead in their absolutist idealism.  Everyone should be able to enjoy a “Spring Sphere”, the teacher suggests (except maybe the Easter Bunny who’s watching his gig get corrupted.)  In time, perhaps, according to her thinking, we can roll all our religious and cultural traditions into one universalist fellowship — and a rousing verse of Kumbaya.

What ever happened to vive la difference?


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  1. Me says:

    It’s not the left that pushed for the ban in France (and elsewhere in Europe) but the xenophobes on the right. I think what’s going on in Seattle and elsewhere is slightly ridiculous–why not create new, inclusive celebrations rather than co-opt existing religious ones?–but it doesn’t seem all that different from the Christians co-opting Pagan celebrations in the first place. The reason Christmas and Easter have become open to secularization is because their religious nature was long ago overrun by the forces of commercialism. Have you seen the Target ads for presents to buy one’s kids for Easter? It’s insane. But it’s understandable why non-Christian kids want in on the deal. As Sally Brown would say, “I just want what’s coming to me. I just want my fair share.” And, besides, we all know Easter, like Christmas, is run by a big Eastern syndicate:-)

  2. Your Friend says:

    Ann Rules!!

    Now, Billy, I’m going to take a little offense at the idea that me, one of the most liberal people you know, might possibly think that everyone should think the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as the xenophobic right in France pushed through the ban on veils, it seems to me like it’s people on the right who most want us all to think the same — for instance, the ones who want to tell me and my wife when to carry a pregnancy to term or what a marriage can be. The further we can get from the xenophobic right in our own country, the better off we will all be. And you know who the xenophobes are, right? Our not-so-friendly nut bags in the Tea Party. Giving tea drinkers everywhere a bad name.

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