Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What is really happening in France?

Political and historical junkies watch what is happening in France with the same wide-eyed fascination that NASCAR junkies wait for the inevitable collisions out of the turns. At a rational level we know that real people are in real danger, even getting hurt. At another primal level we can hardly wait to see what happens next.

We had to grimace a bit this morning as the main news take on the 13th night of rioting was essentially, "Well, gee, only 617 vehicles were torched last night. That's quite a relief."

Hello??? Dear Monsieur Reportaire? One night does not a trend make. Especially if you put a dollar figure on those auto losses. (Excuse moi! A Euro figure, n'est pas?) Let's calculate them at a conservative $10,000 per vehicle. That's $6.17 million in losses. (Sorry, we don't do Euros.)

Like you said, a light night. A light night until you add fiery attacks on two superstores, a newspaper warehouse and a gasoline bombing of a subway station that shut down an entire line. Oh, yeah, a city bus in Bassens.

We marveled at this statement: "Looters and vandals defied a state of emergency." It was repeated several times on various broadcasts and news reports. Defied a state of emergency? How dare them! La graisse est dans le feu! (Now the fat is really in the fire!)

Careful, young Islamic whipper-snappers, or French authorities will taunt you some more. Looters and vandals DEFINE a state of emergency. You can just imagine top French officials gathered behind closed doors to discuss strategy. "They are burning cars and buildings. They are shooting at police, fire and ambulance workers. There is but one thing we can do: we must declare a state of emergency and tell them sternly that curfews will be imposed if they are not careful."

The gut-wrenching truth of it is that things can get worse, and probably will. For all our conservative bitching and moaning over every news analysis that bemoans the lack of immigrant assimulation and the "marginalization" of France's migrant poor, there is some truth in that description. There are indications that the Islamic hard-liners are still waiting in the wings to see how France responds to this level of violence.

It is difficult to comprehend (unless you used to live in New Orleans) how many sections within France belong not to France but to immigrants and the children of immigrants. In these sections police and other government services rarely are seen. These are not the places where tourists visit. It is not hard to imagine Obi Wan, when considering a visit, to warn: "We must be cautious." This is the less the result of the failure of any set of programs as it is indifference, a négligence bénigne. Such benign neglect may well be the undoing of the French Republic.

A cadre of imams issued a formal fatwa on Monday declaring rioting to be unacceptable to Islam. We have been mulling that one a bit. It occurs to us that this action may be trying to accomplish one of two things, or maybe both. The imams may be trying to win a greater role politically by proving to French authorities that "you cannot control our people, but we can." It may simply be an exercised designed to distract French officials and take the heat off of Islam. A third possibility is that it is sincere, and will fail because Islamic youth are fed up with what they see as failures of both their parents' generation and traditional France.

Liberals the world over are rushing in to counsel France not to over-react, to avoid the hard-line, get-tough, law and order approach to ending the rioting. This is wrong on a couple of points. First, France invented squishy liberalism. It needs no coaching in this regard. Second, only a hard-line approach will work in the short term, and if the problem is not solved short term there will be no opportunity for a longer term solution.

If France were a NASCAR race, half the field would have bald tires, the steering mechanisms on a dozen vehicles are about to fail, someone is leaking oil, and Tony Stewart's about to blow a mental gasket, again. The green flag is out and everyone has the pedal to the metal.



At 1:26 PM, Blogger cinnamon-cannelle said...

Ok, I'm french, and I have one something to say. Be careful with the use of "islamic" in the case of the "riots" how you call it (here they called it "urban violences", doesn't change anything though).
Anyway, my point is that it's not because of their religion that the persons in the suburbs are acting that way. I'm not even sure most of them consider themselves to be part of anything. And that's the problem. there is a huge discimination in France towards north african people. Where does it comes from, I don't know personnaly. You should see the conditions in which they're living... I call their quartier "ghettos", because that's what they are. And I feel ashame that my country always gloryfying itslef with the famous "Liberté Egalité, Fraternité" does not follows those words...
I just feel we have to be careful not tu put toghether Islamists, Muslims and rioters.


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