Friday, December 01, 2006

Yet Another Reason to Dislike the French

Like we needed another. Apologies for getting to this story late (it just hit the printed pages of Jazz Times this month), but the reaction to it is almost as bizarre as the event itself. Valery Ponomarev, a jazz musician who defected from the then Soviet Union, was involved in an altercation with French police in September. The IHT reports:

“Ponomarev said that when he arrived late to board his evening flight, a flustered Air India employee retrieved his trumpet from a luggage belt at a security checkpoint without explanation to place it in the plane’s hold.

Ponomarev protested vigorously, he said, because he had carried the instrument onto an earlier connecting flight and also had noticed that another passenger was carrying aboard a sitar. His angry complaints attracted the notice of an Air India supervisor, who summoned the police.

Four officers came running to take his trumpet case, but Ponomarev refused to give it to them, prompting one of them to subdue him by wrenching his arm behind his back, breaking it.”

According to Ponomarev he was held for six hours before he was allowed to see a doctor. Who to sympathize with, the Russian defector jazz musician or overzealous French civil servants? Talk about a no-brainer. I heard Ponomarev’s big band play an excellent show at Birdland earlier this year. He played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 1970’s, recording one of my favorite Blakey LPs, Gypsy Folk Tales. Obviously, the French authorities’ behavior is indefensible.

Ponomarev was assaulted in France, by French cops, trying to get on an Air India flight. So who does the left side of the blogosphere hold responsible? President George W. Bush, of course. In a wild act of psychological transference they blame him for creating an environment of paranoid airport security. After all, the French have been so obsequiously willing to do the bidding of the Bush administration, right? It’s time for these bloggers to start taking their meds again.

The incident brings to mind Tom Wolfe’s famous line inspired by Jean-Francois Revel: “the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”