Ah, lest I forget, there is also another slight difference. I do not go to superhuman lengths to deny my origin, to distance myself from it. I am not in any way implying that you do not have the right to distance yourself from your own humble immigrant origins with missionary zeal. I share your grief and I'm unhappy with your father who did not have the good sense to be born a pure Aryan in France. His poor sense of judgment has created a situation in which annoying words like "Hungary" and "immigration" will always hover like a shadow over your attempts to become a Francais de souche, a pure bred, by redirecting your narrative towards Gaullist ancestors. You see, a tree trunk may spend twenty years in the river, it will never become a crocodile. And to think that Leopold Sedar Senghor and thousands of colonized Africans of his generation received thousands of Gauls as gifts from the benevolent Mother-Country to replace their own uncivilized African ancestors! The same gift you now seek so frenetically to replace your own less dignified Hungarian ancestors! Life can be so unfair.

Dear President Sarkozy...

By Pius Adesanmi

Fraternal greetings to you from Canada. I have elected to write you on the occasion of your resounding victory in the recently concluded presidential elections in France, your country of birth and your father's country of adoption. I hope you do not mind the personal and familiar tone of this letter. We have one important thing in common and I feel so close to you on its account - our common roots in immigration. I am an immigrant in Canada. The only slight difference, of course, is that I am the only one who left Nigeria. My family is still back there and so, I visit from time to time. I understand that in your own case, your father had to move his entire family from Hungary to France in order to escape poverty, communism, and the allied conditions that can gradually nibble at one's humanity when one is unfortunate enough to be born into an inclement environment.

Ah, lest I forget, there is also another slight difference. I do not go to superhuman lengths to deny my origin, to distance myself from it. I am not in any way implying that you do not have the right to distance yourself from your own humble immigrant origins with missionary zeal. I share your grief and I'm unhappy with your father who did not have the good sense to be born a pure Aryan in France. His poor sense of judgment has created a situation in which annoying words like "Hungary" and "immigration" will always hover like a shadow over your attempts to become a Francais de souche, a pure bred, by redirecting your narrative towards Gaullist ancestors. You see, a tree trunk may spend twenty years in the river, it will never become a crocodile. And to think that Leopold Sedar Senghor and thousands of colonized Africans of his generation received thousands of Gauls as gifts from the benevolent Mother-Country to replace their own uncivilized African ancestors! The same gift you now seek so frenetically to replace your own less dignified Hungarian ancestors! Life can be so unfair.

These differences in our attitudes to our mutual roots in the third world notwithstanding, I am saying that we understand each other not because as Minister of the Interior, you rampaged and hounded Arab and Black African immigrants with unequaled inhumanity; not because you abused them from the roof tops; not because you are one of the most hated "westerners" in the communities of dregs from the global south who litter the beautiful metropoles you are trying to keep spick and span; we understand each other because you are one of us! We understand each other because, every time you see your Dad or your brothers and sisters, the mirror shows you the immigrants you just hounded off the streets of Paris for the day. Your visceral hatred of the very conditions of your own emergence is not something we should discuss here. We must leave that evaluation to a future roundtable between Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung, and your compatriot, Jacques Lacan.

I hear your first congratulatory phone call came from our mutual friend, George W. Bush of America. That's fine. I would have called him an ingrate if he hadn't rushed to call you. After all, you made it very clear in your presidential acceptance speech that France was going to become America's brand new Chihuahua. I must advise you to tread carefully though in your ambition to become George Bush's most prized poodle. You met people in the position of chief poodle and you must be seen to respect seniority. There is Tony Blair who managed to be the first person to serve simultaneously as the American ambassador to Britain and British Prime Minister. And there is the Canadian Stephen Harper, who is hoping to replace the outgoing Blair as George Bush's chief poodle. So, I advise you to wait for your turn patiently. While waiting, it is possible for you, Bush, and Harper to form a formidable axis of right wing fundamentalism which is exactly what the world needs in these momentous times.

I must also warn you about those right wing neo-conservative American politicians who are rushing to claim your victory. You see, success has many fathers, many brothers and sisters, many relatives. Rudy Guiliani, America's mayor and top contender for the Republican Party's presidential ticket, is already claiming credit for your victory. I heard him on CNN claiming his support for you and the things he did to guarantee your victory are the best-kept secrets of his political career. It won't be long before we hear from John McCain, and Mitt Romney; Douglas Feith and Richard Perle; Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan; Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly; Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity! Why, Dick Cheney may even join the fray and claim credit for your victory. Beware of this crowd. They will claim you as one of them, as their European representative in whom they are well pleased.

But you are not one of them. You may become George Bush's poodle but you must not let the crowd around him dissolve your differences and water down the most important things that distinguish your society from theirs. You are light years ahead of them and I will tell you why. Despite the inconvenient truth of what mischief makers and envious people may term the brutality of the French in places like Algeria (never mind Henri Alleg!), Madagascar, Black Africa, Haiti, and French Indochina; despite the inconvenient truth of what misguided elements and intellectuals may call French participation in slavery, you belong to a République that has evolved on the sound and infallible logic of liberté, égalité, fraternité. A République that has overcome minor issues like race, racism, xenophobia, and the like. Everybody is equal and therefore those things do not exist. And who has the right to claim emotional and psychological injury on account of things that do not exist?

This explains why, as a politician who has marched gladiatorially in the French public space in the last two decades, it has been impossible for you to offend anyone with your vocabulary. Call predominantly hopeless Arab and Black African youths "racaille" (scum), no problem! Since race, racism, and discrimination are not allowed to exist in the République, no one can be injured! Call Azouz Begag, novelist, public intellectual of Algerian origin, and until recently your fellow minister, a "sale connard" (stupid idiot), no problem! There is no discrimination in the République. Call Africans moving to France "toute la misere du monde" (all the world's misery), no problem. There can be no injury. Call gays and lesbians names that my North American context of political correctness won't allow me to repeat here, no problem. There can be no harm done on account of things that do not exist. Call Arabs dirty people who keep "moutons dans la baignoire" (sheep in the bath tub), no problem. Again there can be no injury.

This is the level of freedom you have achieved in that admirable République. And the American neocons who are now trying to claim you are reluctant to admit that you are not in their league. How many of them are free to use words like "nigger" and "faggot" the way you've rampaged publicly - along with Jean-Marie Le Pen - with such words in the French public space for so long? Let them ask Isaiah Washington! Let them ask former Senator George Allen of Virginia. One wrong use of the word macaca and his political career was history. How he must envy you your freedom to use such words! The freedom of the République! Let them ask Don Imus. A few wrong words and he was history. How he must envy you! How the American right wing must be green with envy. You are free to use words they are only free to think but cannot use for fear of political repercussions! You have achieved a society American racists and neocons can only dream of. How they must salivate! And that is why I am urging you to resist their attempts to bring you down to their level. They still have a long way to go. Of what use is a society where your political career crashes just because you publicly abuse Arabs, Blacks, immigrants, and homosexuals? I am sure you shudder at the thought of the mere possibility of such a strange society existing somewhere on this planet. That is what American neocons let happen in their society. And they have the audacity to believe you're like them?


If you ask me, I prefer the French model, that allows you to speak freely and use the words you and Le Pen are so enamoured of. I know you. I know Le Pen. I know what to expect. I don't have to try to decipher what you think of the Other. In America and Canada, it is very difficult. Neocons are not allowed to say what they really think. Everyone is smiling. If you are an Other here on account of race or sexuality, every waking day is a guess game. Al Sharpton can only try to guess the sort of names Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh would call him when there are no microphones nearby. In your France, they would be free to call him what we already know they really think of him and they won't have to flash that frustrating American smile - which hides a lot of things - every time they encounter him in a public event. So, it is better to know what to expect. All lizards lie prostrate, how can you tell the lizard that has bellyache? That is a proverb of my people in Africa. It explains my frustration with the North American system. In the République, the lizard with the bellyache is free to come out for who it truly is.

I have so many other things to advise you about but this letter is getting too long and my name is not Mariama Ba. Besides, you're holidaying in Malta after your victory and I should be mindful of your time. I do hope you get to take this letter to beach and read it. Perhaps, Cecilia could read it to you? I include my CV in case you need a new Monsieur Afrique. I believe Omar Bongo and Paul Biya are the only two remaining life presidents in Francophone Africa. The landscape has changed and you will need a young, dynamic man like me to handle young minds like Yayi Boni in Cotonou and Faure Yassingbe in Lomé.


Your African Brother


Pius Adesanmi, Ph.D
Associate Professor
Dept. of English Language & Literature
Director, Project on New African Literatures (PONAL)
Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada


PS: I realize it may be necessary now to withdraw your troops from Cote d'Ivoire to help out with George Bush's "war ron terra" in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tell your men to learn to pronounce the names of those places before they deploy. When my Iraqi friends hear Airak, it hurts their feelings that Americans won't even bother to learn how to pronounce the name of a country they have stolen and are plundering in broad daylight.