Pearl River The “bombs bursting in air” signals a horror now in Ukraine, Palestine, the Sudan, and way too many places, but in the US, it means firecrackers for Independence Day. The only relief is that it sounds like guns are being fired, and it’s hit the ground time, but it’s only cherry bombs and other mischief-makers in this peculiar and dangerous tradition. If you’re not barbecuing, picnicking, beaching, or just chilling, then it might be worth taking a minute to reflect on what freedom really means, especially in the wake of the recent hyper-partisan Supreme Court rulings. Or not, because it is a holiday, so maybe pretending all is right with the world for a day is better.
There’s little comfort in finding that as bad as our high court is on race, ethnicity, gender, and the wild gumbo of contemporary America, France may be racing down this terrible road to out hate us. There have been days of rioting in cities across the country in the wake of police killing a 17-year-old. Wow, does that sound tragically American. That’s not all that seems woefully American, because the French court also just crippled any pretense of the country’s hopes for multicultural diversity.
ACORN’s affiliate in France, the Alliance Citoyenne, over the last several years has engaged in a signature effort to win the right for those of its members who are Muslim women who wear hijabs to win access to public pools, play sports, and even have public jobs. We even organized a women’s soccer team for hijabbers. Over the last year, we were on a winning streak, it seemed. There was huge governmental opposition from the very top, but we managed to convince legislators to allow the women to play sports. We attracted support from professional players. We had exhibition games.
A week ago, on my regular call with head organizer, Adrien Roux, he reported on how great the previous week had been. The recommendation from the chief legal department to the court had declared that there should not be discrimination against women wearing the hijab because of their faith and culture. 95% of the time, the French high court affirms such a recommendation. Adrien felt that it seemed certain that we had finally won this campaign. The right-wing was going crazy. The Interior minister was going bonkers, but it seemed in the bag.
But it wasn’t. The court ruled against us, claiming the country’s commitment to secular values demanded it discriminate. We can appeal to the European Union, but even if we won there, the decision would only be advisory. In the USA, the court has gone the opposite way in leaning towards Christian nationalists, although Muslims could still be in trouble, ruling that football coaches can pray on the field after a game, postal workers can refuse to work on Sunday’s, and web designers can refuse to work on gay weddings, as long as they claim religious objections. The US is going hard in one way, and France is going hard in another, but it all adds up to big trouble for so many in the future.
For years, some have wondered what’s the matter with the US. It’s time to be worried about what’s the matter with France now as well.