jeudi 6 novembre 2008

"Farewell, (which is to say) Hello, America."

Paris, France: November 6. Now after a champagne filled trip on Air France back to ma belle, ma France I sit, an immobilized European and contemplate the Japanese farewell that is also hello, sayonara, and feel in me all that American activity that is still in me (I hear America (still) singing!) and though it is in me, it is what I somehow, now, lack (America) here in the preserved handsomeness of my silent Paris apartment. So I ask, What is it to change? A change, that is a substitution, change jobs [un changement de travail], or perhaps a change by mere substitution of X for Y, as in to change one's mind [changer d'avis]. Then change that is not change, which is to say, a currency ex-change, one for one, place for place, coins for paper; then we often think the most im-pact-full change as in to transform, as when she is changed by her success, [la réussite l'a complètement transformée]. And yet that transform-change has only a metaphorical flourish, a temporariness. No. The change is the one that is impossible to define, and it is this change we must attend, change as in "to become different," as when a friend who has not seen you for some time declares with a rude verdict and almost chauvanistic authority, "you have changed a lot!" [tu as beaucoup changé!]. This is the unnerving change; unnverving because the measure of change is incalculable and in the end, not a change in the simpler sense. For when my friend declares that I have "changed a lot," his "a lot" places a finger on what eludes naming and indeed what was always there: he names a difference that is not new but only now re-cognized. For at the heart of what he think is "the same" there lurks a difference. A difference suppressed, ignored, eschewed, avoided, denied. And yet. And yet the difference will never stay suppressed and emerges, suddenly to our attention, and we real-ize that what we pretended to be a cohesive same-ness was never so. There was, inside the alleged sameness, a fertile unspeakable difference. Always. The so-called same is never so. Is always different. "You have changed a lot!" people (now, cheering, crying with joy) say of America. "No!" America must answer. "No, my friend, I have not changed. What was in me that you did not see has emerged only because it has become visible (to you). "I am a black person," America says, "and I was so, all this. America was a black nation, is a black nation, will be a black nation. All this while when it was thought the 'same' white. This was just a lie of your mind's eye." Is. "Oh but surely this is a crazy French game of post-structuralist mumbo-jumbo, c'mon, America, look, look, look at President-Elect Barack Obama ---you have changed!" "No," America answers, [or, now, after a year in its bras ouverts, I can speak, as if I am America (which perhaps, indeed, by now, I see that I am)]: I have not changed. You have recognized a once unbelievable difference inside my 'sameness.' In that recognition, it is you, my friend, not I, that is utterly changed."

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