Saturday, November 12, 2005

The damn French, always having a revolution...

I just wrote the most brilliant thing ever about France, but it was lost in the posting process. I had solved all of their problems and ours here in the U.S.A. Damn you blogger. Note to self--start writing your diatribes in notepad first.

Basically, what I was saying is that what is happening in France is the perfect opportunity for Brits and Americans alike to say "nya-nya-nya-boo-boo" to France. Since its refusal to join the "War on Terror", France has been held up as this model of peaceful, liberal society. Now, with the explosion of rioting that is largely downplayed by the media, we see that France, like the U.S., has a huge problem of race and inequality. I will venture to say that the idea of what a "Frenchman" is is more ingrained in the minds of the French than the idea of what an "American" is ingrained in the minds of white America. Further, the fact that the rioters are Muslims provides the opportunity for those who support the Iraq war to say, "Should've joined up, bitches!"

That the rioters in France are Muslims, however, is only a part of the reason they are rioting. The relation between Islam and the riots is that they are rioting because they feel the injustice they deal with stems from their being Muslim, which it does. I think to most French the huge people-of-color Muslim population is an issue of both "out of sight, out of mind" and "as long as they're not in my back yard." Their Muslim problem is different from the Islamic terrorist problem. Their Muslim rioting is different from the Islamic terrorism that the "War on Terror" purports to be ending.
It predates 9/11, the War on Iraq, and Al Queda's jihad against the West. Indeed, it goes back for thirty years.

Here is a quote in which the commentator takes some pot shots but I think he's right:

Alain Duhamel, political commentator: “The French Republic wanted to show the world that with its secular values, its schooling system, its language, its history, its universal principles and its strong State it was capable of transforming any foreigner, from any continent, whatever the colour of his skin and whatever his religious beliefs, into a true patriotic Gaul with a moustache and a tendency to moan.

“This methodical assimilation is one of the keys of the famous, indisputable French exception.

“Other countries — the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Canada — had chosen the different route of multiculturalism and communitarism. They accepted, they encouraged immigrants to cling to their culture, their language, their memory, their original habits. They gave them a margin of autonomy, of self-organisation. They admitted, they proclaimed, they facilitated these differences.

“In France, the republican melting pot, this mysterious and unique receptacle, sought the opposite. From multiple immigrants, it strove to form a single type of citizen. For a long time, Paris observed race riots and fighting in countries having opted for communitarism with gloating superiority.

“Today, it is its turn to cry over its burning model.”

While I think he is overemphasising how well these other countries "facilitated these differences", and while I do think that a certain degree of assimilation is necessary to fare in any new place, I do agree that in the U.S. and other countries, the policies of multiculturalism have fared better than the French's assimilation. They were a little too proud about how well that worked.

I'm in no way endorsing what the rioters are doing, or that France should blame itself (which it has been doing indirectly). Frankly, I think the French should squash it. Put the curfews into effect, and arrest anyone breaking the curfew. Deal with the problems from which it stems after you've secured your cities from burning to the ground.

But to be gleeful about this is a sign of American arrogance. We should have nothing against France, a country that has historically helped us and that we have helped as well. The thought that we don't have our own problems of inequality and race is itself the manifestation of racism. Hurricane Katrina exposed a part of that, and the ensuing violence is a cousin of the kind of violence that is happening in France. Our racial problems are not only focused on recent immigrants and second generation immigrants, but people who have been here for generations, and are just as American as apple pie and baseball. Do people who are knee slapping and saying "see!" in regards to France think that we don't have huge blocks of people that have the same reasons to get pissed off and go buck wild? I think many people do. These are people that also wrongly believe we don't need to clean our own act up or face a riotous revolution of our own...


Brad said...

I've started using Semagic, a livejournal update client that can be configured for blogger. Sure beats having to re-write entries...

anne arkham said...

Well said. I agree with everything you've written.