Sunday, August 26, 2012

The French Strip a Creative Genius of His Legion of Honour

Vogue reported that John Galliano was recently stripped of his Legion of Honour by the current French president, Hollande, due to his conviction last year of making racist and anti-Semitic comments while apparently soused.  He had been decorated as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour - "the highest accolade available in the order" - in 2010 for his contributions to the fashion industry.

Ugh, the whole incident was extremely ugly and disappointing.  Remember this?




Well, I don't like to watch video content on blogs either, so I'll just tell you about it.

In his barely-coherent dialogue at a cafe, he states that he loves Hitler and notifies poor nearby patrons that if Hitler had been alive today, they would be gassed and killed.  A lady asks him if he doesn't want peace on earth.  He responds, "Not with ugly people."

Cut to later on that week, and further accusations are made by a couple (unrelated to the cafe incident) that Galliano grabbed her hair and shouted, among other things, "Dirty Jew face, you should be dead," and told her to "shut your mouth, dirty bitch, I can't stand your dirty whore voice."  He then allegedly yelled at her boyfriend, Phillippe Virgitti, "[Expletive] Asian [expletive], I'll kill you!"

The couple filed a lawsuit against Galliano (surprise surprise).  Apparently there were no third-parties who were witnesses to this incident and Galliano vehemently denies the allegations, and even filed a counter-suit for defamation, threats and insults.

***

When I first heard about the deplorable cafe incident, I was confused as to why the police were involved and why he was arrested.  As far as I could tell, there were no direct or indirect threats made against anyone and under U.S. law, as long as what a person says cannot be construed by a reasonable person to be a physical threat of "imminent harm," a person just spouting off regarding his personal beliefs is protected under the rubric of freedom of speech.

Then I found out that France, unlike the U.S., makes it a crime, punishable by up to 6 months in prison,  to perform acts construed as anti-Semitic, including speech.  This is to address the high-level of anti-Semitic acts of violence that are still particularly prevalent in Europe.  I had no idea of this.  Coming from Southern California, arguably the most "tolerant" (I hate that word, it's so patronizing) demographic when it comes to immigrants/foreigners, the thought that such legislation is necessary to the point where the fundamental right to freedom of speech is abrogated is a little shocking.  I'm a big believer in non-governmental interference in what are to me, and the Founders of the United States, basic freedoms that each individual has the right to have and what a healthy, thriving democracy requires.  I do believe it's a slippery slope, and once the government justifies curbing fundamental rights due to one reasonable cause, it can easily justify the slicing away of other fundamental rights under the rubric of other "reasonable" causes.  And I say this as one who experienced discrimination and ridicule while growing up.

Anyway, I'm not schooled in European issues and I have *not* researched this specific European law, so I do not profess to have any views on it and that is not the point of this post.  In fact, even the concept of anti-Semitism is so alien to me, why hate people, anyone, based on their religion or culture??!  I don't understand that mentality!!

Under Galliano's direction, Christian Dior became probably my most favorite haute couture fashion house.  He revolutionized what had become an outdated aesthetic and was responsible for dream creations such as these:








He was the darling of the high-end fashion scene and regularly dressed his adoring fans that included celebrities:



He was summarily fired from Christian Dior and is now a convicted criminal last seen skulking around in a rehab facility in Arizona drying out.  This guy, and he really is a genius, decorated with numerous accolades during his lifetime, a scion of the fashion and gay communities, the pride of France...is reduced to an unemployable hot mess at the age of 51 at what was likely the zenith of his career.  All because of what?  An extreme lapse of judgment while...drunk.  Putting aside the allegations later made by the other couple - allegations which were uncorroborated by third-party witnesses and let's face it, by that time Galliano was an easy target - that's what it comes down to.  And what he said was unconscionable and ugly and inexcusable...even if he said it while tanked.  He forever wiped out the Galliano-stardust from my eyes.

Here's the thing, we've all said and done things while under the influence of alcohol that we wouldn't want memorialized in our family gazette and sent to the grandparents.  But for every action there is a reaction, there are always consequences to what we do, and if you've worked extremely hard for decades and the universe has bestowed upon you impressive accolades and rewards...protect it with all your might.  And that probably doesn't include sitting at brasseries by yourself getting wasted.

That's the one thing with attaining astronomical heights in this world...it's a long way to fall.  I don't know what's going to happen to Mr. Galliano, but I imagine he's spent a lot of days looking up at the pinnacle where he used to be and kicking himself.


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