from Margo Berdeshevsky
IT WAS MAY DAY IN PARIS…or WAS IT ONLY THE IMAGE?
“Une petit(e) Piece Dieu Nous Benisse.” A coin—a little coin, God Bless us. I noticed that her sign said bless “us.” Not bless “you.” And she did pray for us both.
It hasn’t been an easy spring. Not in Paris. Not in so many, too many, places. The days have stayed cold for too long, and the blossoms have been too late. One waited for flowers. One waited for joy. And the word “austerity” was/is familiar as day old bread and homelessness on so many streets. The graffiti on a wall of the Place Maurice Chevalier (named for that songster of everything charming and French, he who thanked heaven for little girls, and flowers…) the wall seemed to me to say it all. “Non au traité de l’austerité!” No, to the treaty of austerity. But who is/was listening? Will austerity help/ Will one little coin?
In France, far and wide, May 1st is the day for buying lilies of the valley. Muguets, they are called, here. Every city and village corner has a street seller, permitted on that one day, to sell on the street without any permit, and everyone goes home with the little white coral bells upon a slender stalk, which the old children’s round proclaimed could only be heard when the fairies sing. I dutifully bought and carried my own.
It had been proclaimed, once upon a time that: The workers of the various nations shall organize the demonstration in a manner suited to conditions in their country. —Resolution introduced by Raymond Lavigne, International Socialist Congress, Paris, July 20, 1889
But it was May Day 2013 at La Bastille and the old workers watched and watched the world today…Europe, today… and I watched them, wondering.
I went to La Bastille, that once-upon bastion of Parisian revolutionary history. To watch the day unfold. La Bastille, where a few days more than one year ago (May 6, 2012)—people raised torches and danced in the same square to applaud the election of François Hollande, their new French Socialist president, whose popularity has dramatically diminished in a single year. While the whole of Europe is not faring well under the global crisis, France is no better an icon of success and its president is not working miracles.
On May 1st 2013, I went to La Bastille, that place that was once used by the former kings of France as a prison. That place that Louis XIV had used to imprison upper class French who had angered him. That place that became known for political protests throughout ensuing histories in Paris. On the days of major events, La Bastille is where Parisians gather. That place where immigrant Parisians gather. That place where global politics and local politics may meet.
So it was May Day 2013. Elsewhere, there were bombs and wars and drones and somewhere, I wondered—might there be dancing? And—What I found fascinating was that here in Paris at least, yes, there was dancing. And there was this: the Marxist slant of the May 1st holiday was there, but overshadowed by and linked to the workers of the Arab worlds, and to the workers of the Turkistan worlds, immigrants, now French, as much or even more in evidence—than to the the old traditionally Socialist countries. As though it was they—who have taken up the cause of the downtrodden—and it was they, the Syrians and the Iranians, and the Communist Turks, from that other world by birth, who live in Paris and are struggling alongside the many to survive this spring, they were ones who were each and all bidding for recognition by dancing, and bearing flags and chanting their deepest cultural connections to the salt of the earth. (So to speak.) I wondered if that was and is significant. I wondered—about how the grand economic compass has shifted.
I wondered about the older world and the new, the older icons, and the new, the older marchers and dancers and revolutionaries, and the new, the older coin of the realm—so to speak, and the new. I wondered about what one can think of as old—and what, new. What—as winter, and what—as spring, what—as growth, and what—as decay. I watched, I gathered images to help me understand, and to send to you as my letter from Paris, this spring. I wondered who must pray for us, and who must/or/will dance. I wondered who is crying “may day,” in its other sense—and how soon the spring will be warm. And I still do.
And who must be blessed? And whom shall we pray for, on a May Day, on all the May Days, now and to come? I ask, very quietly. In Paris. In the spring of 2013.
with much care, as ever,
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