France: Paradise Lost?
Pam Druckerman gushes about the France she loved (in her editorial “France, Paradise Lost” in the New York Times, Nov. 3, 2015): access to abortion, paid maternity leave (for those who choose not to abort), free health insurance. She raves about the French interest in philosophy and delightful multicultural experiences. She admires how the French took in nearly 130,000 Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants in the 1970s. How magnifique!
But wait! France is changing, and not for the better, she warns. They are rolling back the red carpet for the asylum seekers, mostly Muslims who are trying to partake of all the above-mentioned entitlements. Oh, no! France's political parties are so not inclined to welcome the newest refugees. Pourquoi?
Druckerman is so totally baffled by this change in attitude that she's fretting, as she puts it.
Well, Ms. Druckerman, I'm no Francophile, but I'm guessing the following developments you seem to have overlooked may have contributed to the less than joyous embrace of those flooding in from Muslim countries. Could it be the riots that began in the nineties, when French-Arab youths set cars on fire and attacked police, and then accelerated in the 2000s, where there was more of the same, except louder, lasting longer, and with “the disgruntled” exhibiting more hate? Perhaps it was the strife caused by the burka ban, a decidedly French response to those who prefer basic, black burka styles that hide the feminine form. The French are so wedded to their haute couture that they show little tolerance to other fashion boulevards. Or maybe it was the institution of hundreds of no-go zones, which the French so charmingly call zones urbaines sensibles (ZUS), which began in late 1996 and now encompass 8 percent of France's population, including the heavily Muslim parts of Paris, Marseilles, Strasbourg, Lille, and Amiens. Or could it have been the crème de la crème of offenses, in which some hyphenated French citizens with a different philosophy of life from the staff of Charlie Hebdo expressed their dissension rather forcefully by shooting artists and writers and then following up with a distasteful mass killing at a kosher supermarket in Paris?
Who could blame the French for being a tad less adorable and a wee bit more grouchy?