Life American Mythologies
This image of a Sudanese immigrant was on the cover of yesterday’s Seattle Times:
This paragraph is in the last and most famous essay, “Myth Today” (1956), of the most famous book, Mythologies (1957), of France’s most famous semiotician, Roland Barthes (1915-1980):
I’m at the barber’s, and a copy of Paris-Match is offered me. On the cover, a young Negro in a French uniform is saluting, with his eyes uplifted, probably fixed on a fold of the tricolour. All this is the meaning of the picture. But, whether or not, I see very well what it signifies to me: that France is a great Empire, that all her sons, with no color discrimination, faithfully serve under her flag, and that there is no better answers to detractors of an alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro in serving his so-called oppressors. I am therefore again faced with greater semiological system: there is the signifier, itself already formed with a previous system (black soldier is giving the French flag salute): there is the signified (it is here a purposeful mixture of Frenchness and militariness); finally, there is a presence of the signified through the signifier.
The picture from the cover of yesterday’s Seattle Times says something like this: “Although things are very bad in Iraq, the US is still the land of hope for the global poor and destitute, as exampled by this happy Sudanese immigrant. So, in the face of America’s diminished international standing as the symbol of liberty, fairness, and prosperity, still be proud to be an American.”
This image of another recently Americanized African, me, was constructed by The Stranger’s art director Corianton Hale.
For other reasons, the image is as guilty as the one from Seattle Times.