Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Letter I sent to the "New York Review of Books"

I am not renewing my subscription. It is lapsing soon or has lapsed. 

My letter: 

March 27, 2016

                                                                                    Edward H. Sebesta

New York Review of Books

Dear Editors:

I read with interest Robert O. Paxton’s review, “The Truth About the Resistance,” of recently published histories of the French Resistance in World War II in the Feb. 25 2016 issue of NYRB. I found it informative in understanding the scope and extent and reality of the French Resistance and its history.

However, I was somewhat taken aback by the concluding paragraph as to the larger historical meaning where Paxton in discussing the humiliation of the French by the occupation quotes Roger Stéphane stating that, “Perhaps it is absurd, but it was by such absurdities that we restored our dignity as men.”

I would state that perhaps, in 1945, in a world where the majority lived under foreign occupying governments, a system of world colonial empires, it was understood that the French were restoring their dignity as white men, in a world where being occupied by a foreign power was something that happened to non-whites.

It would have been interesting had Paxton commented on why the French after living under a foreign occupation which they found horrific and humiliating didn’t reflect on what their occupation of other nations and places might be like for those they dominated. Instead there was war in Algeria, war in Indochina, by a nation very slow to realize that colonial domination was on the way out. I guess Paxton and the NYRB editors will always have Paris.

It is 2016 and we live in not just a long since post-Colonial world, but a multipolar world and I, but perhaps not your other readers, need to learn to live and think in that world. In reading this article and other articles I am realizing that the NYRB is perhaps a form of nostalgia for educated people.

                                                                                                Sincerely Yours,

                                                                                                Edward H. Sebesta

There was a reply letter from Paxton, but it really didn't make much sense. He pointed out multiple sources that many people and movements across the spectrum were racist at the time, thus documenting the point I was making. The whole story about the French Resistance, which was a good thing to have happened in history, avoids the issue that what the French found so horrible was something they were doing to many nations and peoples and they didn't perceive what they were doing as wrong because of their white supremacy. 

What is missed is an important lesson on how history is constructed and how people are blinded by their ideologies. 

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