What would you do?

I am supposed to be packing this week, but my last entry spawned so many interesting answers ... and new questions for me. Yes, I know the hypothetical is always much safer than reality, so they do not always line up, but today I ask you to sit in a quiet place and close your eyes...

Imagine yourself in the security of your own home, when the doorbell rings. A uniformed officer hands you a paper and tells you that you have ten days to put everything you want to take with you into two suitcases and report to a relocation center, where you will be processed, then taken to a holding center for an indefinite amount of time. When you ask what you have done, the reply is not anything you have done, but rather a characteristic such as your hair color, or perhaps your political affiliation. When you ask about your job, home and possessions, you are told that dealing with those is your own business.

Tell me what would go on in your head. What would your initial reaction be? What would you ultimately do? What range of feelings do you think you would experience?

Conversely, if you were not a member of this group that was to be taken away, what do you think would you do? If you were walking down the street and ran into someone you knew who was a member of this group, what would you do? What if it were someone you didn't know?

Here is my answer ...

I have always been a vocal defender of rights ... as long as they are not my own ... and I think that in a case like this, I would probably follow suit.

I am ashamed to admit that if the powers that be came for me, I believe my docile genes would win out over my rebellious upbringing. And though I think I would initially be indignant, and I believe every fiber of my being would be screaming "injustice!" I think ultimately, I would end up following the decree to the letter and going quietly.

Conversely, if I were not in the target group, I think I would be much more vocal about fighting such a decision... and I would like to think that nothing would change with my perception of or how I treated others in that group. For me, it has always been much easier to fight for what I believe in if I think I am defending someone else other than myself, even if, ultimately, their freedom is also mine.



From gang symbols and rebellious teenage statements, to doodles and elaborate artwork, graffiti is everywhere. Just as varied as the content, are the reactions to it ... blight on humanity, sign of declining neighborhoods, defacement of property, art, socio-political statement, any combination of those.

Police Everywhere Justice Nowhere is in a tunnel by Fort de Bellecroix. I thought it a fitting description of our post-9/11 world. Governments have taken our freedoms and privacy under the guise of security. But we are no safer than before, although considerably more impinged upon, inconveniences paid for by our taxes.

This green guy looks more innocuous than the statements above, and is one of a series painted on the flower boxes on a bridge over the Digue de la Pucelle here in Metz. They seem to be sanctioned by the city, since all the boxes seem to have been painted by the same person.

Not graffiti, but I saw this display in someone's yard as I was walking down the street. I find this still life of children's toys and garden gnomes odd, creepy and fascinating. Did an adult set these up, or did a child create his or her own little world?

I often wonder how others feel about expressions, sanctioned or taboo. In a recent blog entry, Zaz discusses her dilemma with Freedom of Expression. As a writer, self expression is important for her, but as a mother, she found it impossible to defend a rapper who had been banned from a music festival for lyrics that were racist, misogynistic, and violent.

On the other hand, another friend of mine, who is a father, told me he is against censure because it gives more power to the target group. To wit, I believe that the rapper in question had a surge in downloads of his work since that date.

I am not a parent. Nor does my livelihood depend on artistic expression. But I am a member of an ethnic group that has faced socio-political discrimination. I am inclined to agree that censure tends to grant power to the target, and often forces the movement underground, where it is more difficult to track. In this respect, I would much rather have someone's feelings out in the open.

I had a student who was a self-described racist, due to growing up in a small town with limited exposure to many ethnic groups, and prison time, where racist tendencies are reinforced due to the way inmates group themselves. After her release, she forced herself to deal with her issues, and did that very much out in the open. I spent many evenings after class discussing her progress with her. I appreciated her candor and efforts to overcome her issues. It was important that she express how she felt and why, no matter how ugly those feelings were, in order to work through them. Interestingly, I was disappointed by other peoples' reactions when I described her and her efforts. People I had thought were open-minded were quick to condemn her, completely overlooking her background and the fact that she was working hard to evolve her way of thinking. I did not see the same efforts from them.

I would love to hear how others feel about the freedom of expression, artistic, social, political or otherwise. My door is always open.

Tthis is my final weekend in Metz for most likely a long time. There are so many things I still want to see and experience here, but I am out of time on this run. And as luck would have it, I'm fighting off a cold and feeling a little run-down, so I stayed relatively close to the apartment and packed a few items this weekend, rather than go anywhere interesting.


Packing Up

I'm in the midst of packing and figuring out what to do with what I've packed. The process is a bit more complicated than last year, since I actually had to buy housewares when I arrived. I have two weeks to move out of my apartment, and am not sure yet whether I will try to ship my things home, pay excess baggage to take them on the plane (possibly the cheapest solution, although a pain, since I plan to travel a bit before I leave and I'd have to tote them everywhere), or give them away to my neighbors or the next tenant of this apartment. I think I am probably agonizing over this more than I should, but I am a worrier by nature, so I guess I am just doing what comes naturally to me.

I did make time Tuesday night to join the festivities for the Féte Nationale/quatorze juillet (we call it Bastille Day in the US, probably to distinguish it from the national holidays of other countries). I took some photos of the fireworks (above) and carnival rides (left), and since I was out, took the opportunity to snap other sites around town I have been meaning to shooot at night, including Temple Neuf, which I had photographed during the day when I first arrived. I don't have a tripod, and was using a long exposure time, so it was difficult to get a good shot, but I actually like the way that shaky shot turned out!

On a bittersweet note, I found a store here that sells my favorite Single Malt, Benromach Peat Smoke. Back home, I have to drive ten miles to the Wine Globe to get it (I can also order it from the web, but I am an immediate want kind of shopper). Here, I take a 15 minute walk to the town center. I bought a bottle this week, and am debating cracking it open before I pack it up (I cannot polish off a bottle in two weeks). Too bad I have to leave...

... and something to look forward to when I get home: a used bookstore has opened in downtown San Mateo, which is walking distance from my house. Back before the chain bookstores, sometime in the 1980's, I spent countless happy hours perusing books and newspapers from around the world at the Central Park Bookstore/Café while I sipped my favorite drink at the time, a double mocha with soy milk (I'm asian -- if I use real milk, everyone is miserable). Unfortunately, the building owner refused to renew the lease when it came up, and there has not been a decent bookstore in the area since then, and it has been at least 15 years since it closed. It is not quite the same, as I believe the new store lacks the café and newspapers, and my drink has changed to a shot of espresso with a spoonful of honey (or maple syrup, if I'm home) and a little rice milk on the days my stomach acid is making me unhappy, but I am looking forward to the books! I hope they have a copy of Perfume, by Patrick Süskind. I have the French version, but the vocabulary is too advanced for me to read with any decent comprehension.