Naming names

All the early reports of the riots at Paris’ Gare de Nord train station — and most of the subsequent ones, as well — have referred to those ubiquitous “youths” as the troublemakers. (And if you’ve ever seen the movie “My Cousin Vinny,” every time you hear the word “youths,” you want to giggle.) This is London, however, is finally naming names or, rather, national origins:

Many of the rioters appeared to be of African or North African origin.

Also, despite reports I’ve read about police brutality being the problem (i.e., that the police were too rough with the original fare dodger), it looks as if, aside from breaking the law by dodging the fare, the original malfeasor, who has a long record, tried a little brutality himself:

The fare dodger, who punched one ticket inspector, has a lengthy criminal record, interior minister Francois Baroin said.

Police, who made 13 arrests, said he was an illegal immigrant from Congo who has challenged efforts to expel him. He was convicted in 2004 for insulting a magistrate.

Note the “illegal immigrant” part of the equation when it comes to describing the man who started it all. I rather wonder about the immigrant status of the rest of the “youths” involved in this by now typical Paris kerfuffle between the police and these African and North African immigrants.

On a related topic, Mr. Bookworm and I are about 2/3 of the way through Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie Blood Diamond. The reviews were a little sour, but I think it’s a good movie for two reasons: First, it has DiCaprio, a man I think is one of the best actors around. I like watching him, and I think he’s matured gracefully from a little boy to an actor of substance. I like watching him so much that I assiduously ignore any stories about him — his lifestyle or politics — so that I won’t be so soured on him that I stop watching his movies. I did catch, though, that he has an Israel girlfriend, which indicates, although it doesn’t prove, that he’s not an anti-Semite.

Second, the movie portrays really well a vital fact we all tend to forget. As Mr. Bookworm inelegantly stated, “Africa is a s**thole.” While there do seem to be pockets of civility, for the most part, Africa is a continent that catapults wildly from one natural or man made disaster to another, without pause, and always with the highest number of brutally abused victims, especially children. Some might think the movie exaggerates the terrors of rebel warfare (this time in Sierra Leone), but I’ve read enough articles and stories over the last several years to believe that, if anything, this blood-drenched movie is weak on portraying real life in the most degraded parts of Africa.

Keith Richburg, an African-American, was only telling the truth (and presciently in many ways) when he wrote his 1998 book Out of America : a Black Man Confronts Africa. Having served as the African bureau chief for a major American newspaper (I can’t remember which one right now), he makes the very un-PC admission that he is incredibly grateful to be a black man in America, rather than Africa. He holds to this belief despite the fact that it was the evils of slavery several hundred years ago that resulted in his ancestors’ being transported from one land to another. In other words, his ancestors suffered so that he could live. Incidentally, the book is also a great indictment of the African-American political leaders who resolutely turn a blind eye to a lot of the worst dictators in Africa so as to score political points at home.

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