Looking out: Against France's nuclear tests, too

December 5, 1995

Against France's nuclear tests, too

Every nation ridicules other nations, and all are right. — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1806) Nationalism can be a sickness that kills not only those filled with the self righteousness, in the centre of a country's good intentions, but those on its periphery — through no fault of their own — too often fall victim to it as well. The Green Left Weekly (November 1) reported on Australian high school students taking "action against nuclear tests". Needless to say, most of the world is against France for those nuclear tests it has been conducting and rightly so, but we ought not forget that there are some good things about France too. I should note that while those protests have been carried out on a global scale, with too little success, I am particularly impressed with Australia's high school students' protests. The promise of the future must be fulfilled in the young people of this world, and their protests lend credit to that promise. Sometimes though, in such protests a kind of subtle and dangerous nationalism can emerge inadvertently, that causes great harm to others who are new to one's country. This kind of unconscious xenophobia devours even the best of good intentions. Let me share with you an example of just how dangerous it can be. Recently I got a letter from a young woman I have been in communication with for more than a year. She is French, but has tried to make her new home Australia for a couple of years now. Over the past months I have read how much she has come to love Australia and its people. However, her recent letter is sadly and shockingly different. That letter moved me deeply. She does not know I have written anything about her plight yet. You see, ever since France began its nuclear testing (and because she cannot — and certainly should not have to — hide her very French accent) the poor woman has had to carry the weight of those tests upon her shoulders. In many situations she is being treated as if she triggered those bombs herself. Some, thankfully not all, Australians have made her life miserable — for no other reason it would seem that the fact that she is French. The resentment she has endured, and continues to endure, has so demoralised her heretofore loving exuberance for all things Australian that she has reluctantly decided to go back to France. That should make more than a few Australians, with compassion, very sad. While reading the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer's reprinted excerpts I found his words appropriate and poignant. His philosophy was, like my own, based upon sympathy and a willingness to feel another's hurt as his own. I feel this young woman's pain. As I write she is having difficulty finding lodging. Things are not going very well for her. I wrote this in the sincere hope that some caring Australian readers will write to me, and allow me to put them in touch with her. I want her to know there are people in Australia who will help, rather than ridicule her. She really needs a friend and she is against France's nuclear tests, too.
[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He is happy to receive letters commenting on his columns. He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G2-51, GD&CC, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233, USA.]

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