"Unimaginable and Indefensible..."
For the past two days I have not posted very much. Apologies for my laziness, but sometimes one has to tear oneself away from the infernal computer and relax a bit.
Unhappily, it wasn't very relaxing since I knew what awaited me when I finally put my nose to the grindstone: a massive collection of articles condemning, questioning and in some cases applauding the politically inane decision of Nicolas Sarkozy to link every French 5th grader with a dead companion, chosen from lists of supposedly French Jewish children who died in the Holocaust (note: not all of them were necessarily French).
Now, how do I decide which articles are worthy of translating? How to pick the most perceptive reactions? I don't know, so I'm just plunging in, beginning with Simone Veil, Holocaust survivor, former minister of health, sponsor of the French abortion law, and commissioned by Sarkozy to re-write the preamble of the French Constitution. She cannot be accused of harboring conservative notions. Le Figaro reports:
(...) Several voices have risen up to denounce the perverse effects that could possibly result from this new pedagogical tool. Friday, Simone Veil, honorary president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah and former deportee, did not hesitate to virulently criticize the proposal made by the French president. She deemed the measure "unimaginable, indefensible and unjust." Questioned by L'Express, she declared: "You cannot inflict this on little children of ten. You cannot ask a child to identify with a dead child. This memory is much too heavy to bear. (...) We former deportees have found it very difficult, after the war, to talk about what we lived through even with our loved ones. And still today, we try to spare our children and our grand-children. Furthermore, many teachers teach this topic very well." (...)
Historian Jacques Azéma, a specialist in the history of Vichy, was equally adamant:
"It is scandalous to enlist pupils for the cult of the memory of the martyred Jewish children." He feels that this obligation "imposed without the slightest deliberation by the political leadership" is "intolerable and furthermore dangerous and counterproductive."
"There is the risk of unleashing a competition of victims, and, far from reducing anti-Semitism, of triggering reactions that are exactly the opposite. As he is doing for the law of 1905 on 'laïcité', Sarkozy is creating pandemonium and opening up a Pandora's box!"
Royalist Yves-Marie Adeline, who ran for president on a monarchist agenda, and who is now running for mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris, is the father of eight children. He says:
The presidential decision, that aims to force children in elementary school, beginning next September, to "adopt the memory" - personal and clearly identified - of a Jewish child killed as a result of the Nazi occupation of France, demands that I respond as a father.
Every child has the right to innocence, to tranquility, to a world apart from crude realities, to freedom from burdensome responsibilities. To treat children like adults is a sneaky form of moral violence that cannot do honor to any victim from the past. The generation of baby-boomers that has now reached the controls of our Western societies, is unquestionably afflicted with the Peter Pan syndrome and does not always respect the necessary distance between child and adult. Childhood is a sanctuary that must be preserved.
The photo shows Sarkozy and his minister of education, Xavier Darcos, in a school in the city of Périgueux, where the president repeated his controversial proposal and admitted that French elementary schools had a higher rate of failure than was generally known.