"With 897 vehicles destroyed by daybreak Saturday, it was the worst one-day toll since unrest broke out after the Oct. 27 accidental electrocution of two teenagers who believed police were chasing them. Five hundred cars were burned a night earlier. In a particularly malevolent turn, youths in the eastern Paris suburb of Meaux prevented paramedics from evacuating a sick person from a housing project, pelting rescuers with rocks and torching the awaiting ambulance, an Interior Ministry official said. A nursery school was badly burned in Acheres, west of Paris." AP
"CRS -SS!." That was the street chant in 1968 when the students decided to raise hell about tuition increases or something.
"CRS" The "Compagnies Republicaines de Securite." These are the riot troops of the Ministry of the Interior. They wear dark blue, carry submachine guns generally and are not polite. The students obviously did not like them in 1968. There are a lot of these police troops.
"Gendarmerie Mobile." ("GM") These are the mobile tactical reserves of the Military Police, who in France also mostly work for the Ministry of the Interior but, who are actually soldiers. They police the French countryside. In addition to their posts in towns they have large armored units in the GM. These GM units have armored personnel carriers and tanks, real tanks. They wear black uniforms and are called in to back up the CRS if it looks like a situation is "going south." They usually are polite.
Then there are also "La Police Nationale," (ordinary cops, usually in cities, you know, Cluseau, Maigret, etc) Not significant in street riots.
If you start to see either the CRS or the GM in the streets of Paris you will know that the government has decided to do something serious against the rioters. So far the poor "pompiers" (firepersons) are taking a beating in trying to deal with insurgents who, at this point, probably think that their hellraising is doing something good for them.
Most Americans claim to dislike France. I have puzzled over why this is true. Were they snubbed in Paris by waiters, department store clerks, abused by cab drivers? Have they never been to New York City? Can they not deal with people like that? Is this visceral hostility a left-over from a millennium of hostility between the English ancestors and the French "enemy?" Is this really a hold-over from the Hundred Years War? Are we really so small minded that we are angry with their insistence on following an independent course in foreign affairs? Do we not know how many times the French Armed Forces have stood beside uas since WW2? I do, because I was often involved in such cooperation. Americans, who know anything about foreign affairs often believe that France withdrew from NATO back in the ’60s. Not so! They withdrew their forces from the PEACETIME command of SHAPE, the NATO heaquarters in Belgium, but they never withdrew from NATO. Their forces remained firmly embedded in war plans and in position to participate in a repulse of the Soviets for all those years.
I confess to liking France, the French language, the cuisine, the whole thing. Sorry folks, there it is. I have actually been to the French military cemetery at Yorktown, Virginia where their valor was essential to the triumph of American arms. (and our independence from the British) When I was in government service I was often the grateful recipient of their help in difficult situations. I have been to the Church of St. Louis in Paris. This is the official church of the French Army . In the Church there is a stone monument about four feet tall and shaped like a bullet. It is carved with the symbols of the United States. There are identical monuments along the roads in northern France from the beaches in Normandy to the German frontier. They mark the route of advance of Patton’s Third Army. This is called the "Route of the Liberation." The one in Paris is filled with earth from all the American military cemeteries in France. I once spent some time at the US cemetery at Belleau Wood. This is the "Aisne-Marne" cemetery. The US guardian there lives at the cemetery. He told me interesting things: 1-That his predecessor had lived at the cemetey throughout the German occupation in WW2. The Heer (German Army) placed a guard on the place and provided required logistics until the US advance in 1944 "uncovered" the area. 2-That his maintenance budget from the US givernment was sadly inadequate and that the way he dealt with this was that he had a list of French contracters who, when called on, maintained the cemetery gratis. If this does not meet your pre-conceived notions on the subject, "Tant pis.." (Too Bad)
Having said this, I am sorry to say that France has a problem involving un-assimilated Muslim immigrants and citizens which the government and people of France have themselves caused over the years.
Simpy put, they have let too many people into the country who came only for economic improvement and who had little or no interest in becoming French. This developed largely after the liquidation of France’s colonial empire. In the immediate aftermath of the independence of Algeria, many partly assimilated Algerians moved to France to escape the rule of the FLN in Algiers. These were the so-called "Harkis." They wanted to be assimilated and, in the main, have been. The later immigrants were different. By and large, they came to France"for the passport," and with no intention of accepting the idea of being French.
It has to be said that the French are by and large an ethnic people. (Yes, I know about Corsica and Martinique) They, like the Germans and English have a difficult time thinking of immigrants as really having become them. The immigrants know what the French really think they are. This is a problem. Nevertheless, I have "rattled around" in the "boondocks" in France because I have friends there, and in every town in the provinces I find that these same immigrants occupy most of the low-cost public housing and that their children go to state run schools just like the kids whose ancestors marched with Napoleon.
What’s the problem? The French have allowed this situation to fester. If a lot of people from another culture immigrate to your country and you accept the idea that they will remain something different, then, in the end, you have to expect that there will be trouble when these folks begin to realize the strength that their numbers give them.
I can hear the economic determinists howl. "Not by bread alone.." folks. Nevertheless… According to the CIA "World Factbook." the population is 99% literate, The unemployment rate is 10.1% and the percentage of residents living below the poverty line is 6.5%. The high (for us) unemployment rate is attributed widely to structural rigidity in the more or less "statist" French economy. By contrast, our unemployment rate is 5.5% and the percentage of people living below the poverty line is 12%. So, I guess we are more productive but have less social conscience. That sounds about right.
What will happen? If the hoodlums in the streets don’t calm down, the French government will finally decide that order must be restored. This will be a tough decision. The post-colonial French treasure their self-image as great humanitarians, and the Left will protest, but self interest will triumph.
The Muslim kids can go home and go look for a job (or somewhere else and look for a job) or they can expect to meet the CRS and GM.
Pat..Good Post..and Assesment of the Fench Situation..I hate to see these Growing Conflicts around the World..These are MAJOR Problems that add to the Complexity of the Accelerating Problems in the World..
Germany is Facing the Same Problem..I know the Feelings of several Germans about this OUSLANDER Problem which is Identical to Franchs Situation..and a Growing Burden on the German Economy and the Middle Class ..and thier Once Robust Standard of Living..
I fear the same Deveopments
in Germany eventually will take Place as this Global Political and Social Unrest Grows..
You are Right to Take Notice of other Events taking Place..They form a Pattern..
The4re is Not Much Light at the End of the Tunnel
Its Rapidly Getting Dimmer..
I should add that you are Right to show Appreciation for the French Culture and the Bonds they have with the People of the United States..Bonds that go back to thier Helping us during Our American Revolution ..
The Word LIBERTY..is the Same in Any Language..but it Has a Special meaning in the French Language..If anyone Appreciates LIBERTY..Its the Frech..
I hope the United States learns this lesson wrt hispanics.
Pat, excellent on all points. Don’t need to read about Dien Bien Phu, Yorktown said it all.
Common sense post, Pat, and rich with your knowledge of history and your own experiences.
By the way, Jerome A Paris — a French banker and expert on energy development around the globe — has a new story up this morning — his aunt’s building was burned last night. Thankfully, she is alright. (Click on my name to read his story.)
Vive la France, in my opinion.
I, too, like France and the French. And I’ve come to believe that many Americans dislike the French because there are so many similarities. Americans and Frenchmen are utterly chauvinistic and convinced of their moral and world superiority.
My own experience is that the French are very warm and gracious, even in Paris, if they are treated with respect — as is true of most people in the world.
The French are very protective of what they consider their national character. The current crisis is serious. I agree with Pat that the French will restore order (even if that doesn’t solve the long-term problem). And it could be messy. If Chirac doesn’t get control, LePen is standing in the shadows.
I find this thread interesting since France was about as much a nation decades (centuries?) ago as Iraq is now: regional, diverse, and ruled by “tribal lords”. Eventually the kings in Paris united them all under the monarchy. Then they lost their heads. Literally.
But never mind that. The real issue is: do we (Merkins, which this what this is actually about) integrate the “furriners” unilaterally (English only, nuclear families, the “right” standards, etc.) into our culture or allow the culture to change to accomodate them?
History has the answer: no. Ask any Native American. Love our McDonalds or leave us. (That was sarcasm.)
I’m sad for the french and the arabs in france. I don’t immediately see what any american can do to help.
As for the question whether we try to integrate our cultures according to one standard or integrate them letting the mass culture slide to fit, or leave them separate….
The third choice is dangerous. It tends to leave us with separate cultures trying to get along, and when they don’t we get the french problem.
The first looks difficult. How do we persuade all alternate cultures to do everything our way? They’re likely to politely refuse and then what? We notice them saying Kaddish or whistling Dixie and throw them out of the country?
We have to try to get the different cultures to meld together enough to get along. It’s a long slow process if it works.