Friday, December 23, 2011

Turkish Bath

So, for the sake of a few hundred thousand potential Armenian votes, Nicolas Sarkozy has created--his detractors say--an international incident with Turkey that threatens to have long-lasting implications for French foreign policy. Of course the opposition is no better. Hollande distinguished himself with a characteristically fence straddling statement:

"Ce qui est regrettable, fâcheux, comme méthode, c'est de saisir une occasion pour faire une nouvelle discussion d'une proposition de loi, dont le gouvernement a déjà dit qu'il ne la transmettrait pas au Sénat. Donc c'est purement un effet d'affichage", s'est indigné le candidat.
"Les socialistes ont voté cette proposition, c'est normal, puisqu'ils avaient voté quasiment la même il y a cinq ans. Pourquoi a-t-on perdu cinq ans ? Pourquoi le président de la République se réveille-t-il – si je puis dire – à la fin de son mandat ? Poser la question, c'est y répondre : c'est une opération électorale, a-t-il poursuivi. Je pense que c'est dommage parce qu'elle ne satisfera pas les Arméniens qui attendaient cette loi depuis cinq ans et demandent que ce texte soit transmis au Sénat."
Translation: we, too, want Armenian votes, but not in the way Sarkozy wants them. And Robert Badinter purports to discover some sort of "anticonstitutional" principle in the new law:

"Ce n'est pas aux parlementaires de dire l'histoire. Moins encore aux parlementaires français quand il s'agit de faits qui ont été commis en Asie mineure […] il y a un siècle, où il n'y a eu ni victime ni complicité française. Ça ne concerne en rien la France", a ajouté l'ancien garde des sceaux sur RTL.
Translation: Mind your own Holocaust. Denial of a genocide that your people are mixed up in is constitutionally punishable, but denial of somebody else's alleged genocide is offensive to the constitution because "it's not up to the parliament to define historical truth." I think Badinter needs to read Milton's Areopagitica:

And now the time in special is, by privilege to write and speak what may help to the further discussing of matters in agitation. The temple of Janus with his two controversal faces might now unsignificantly be set open. And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing. He who hears what praying there is for light and clearer knowledge to be sent down among us, would think of other matters to be constituted beyond the discipline of Geneva, framed and fabriced already to our hands. 

Instead of the grappling of truth and falsehood, then, we have yet another of these depressingly entangled Franco-French and Franco-foreign conflicts in which all participants, seeking temporary advantage and guided more by the heat of passion than the light of reason, disserve the causes they claim to champion.