Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rioting in France

As you know, there is more rioting in France. Two years ago Paris' northern suburbs erupted and youths of indeterminate religion and origin (wink-wink) burned cars and generally made royal nuisances of themselves.

This time around, they are using shotguns and the police believe the "youths" are trying to get more guns. About 100 cops have been injured and about a third of them from gunfire. So far the police response has been restrained.

This is a truly serious situation for France. I can't pretend to be an authority on France, but Yosemite Sam and I have traveled there several times. I took more than one French history course in graduate school. I can read and speak French (not as good as when we traveled there--use it or lose it). So, take my following observations with those grains of salt.

France has a seething problem with its immigrants (no shit Sherlock). Unlike some European countries, France has a clear road to citizenship. For one thing, you learn the language, which is no problem for immigrants from Francophone North African countries. But, the French expect you to adopt Frenchiness, for lack of a better term. That's what so many of the North Africans cannot do.

Most, if not all, unassimilated youths are Muslim and won't adopt French concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity. They don't want to give up their cultural notions of women, gays, Jews, and their ethnic identity. They have a hard time getting and keeping work. This is not
necessarily true of their parents who came to France to work or set up shops. They wanted to assimilate, but their children want to keep the outward trappings of their cultural and religious identity.

In turn, this has led a sizable minority of the French people to turn against the immigrants. While we were there, we heard certain Parisian suburbs described as homes of the black beasts. We saw graffiti carved deeply into a park bench in Lyon, "Interdit aux arabes" (forbid all the Arabs).

This situation is only going to get worse in France. The youths don't want to assimilate and many French people don't want them to assimilate. Two years ago, they burned cars. Now they're shooting at police. The question is, when will the French military (if they still have one) shoot back?

The situation in not pretty and the French are perfectly capable of channeling their inner Robespierre. If they do, it will be another one for the history books.

On this issue, I have a confession to make that will shock many of you. I actually like France and the French. Yosemite Sam and I have been all over the country. I met and talked with some very good people--the ones in Normandy in particular. It saddens me that they haven't been able to solve their immigrant youth problem and I see no good solution.

It will be awhile before we return and I hope there's something worth visiting when we do.

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