Monday, January 14, 2013

Beware of well-brought-up France

Some thoughts from author Gabrielle Cluzel, writing at Boulevard Voltaire:

Everyone agrees, even some cautious members of the government: the January 13 demonstration was an immense, undreamed of success.

All the more so because it brought out into the streets of France those who are silent, the France that does not make noise, the well-brought-up France that tries not to be a nuisance, the France that toils and pays its taxes without complaint, that has never committed a crime greater than a parking meter violation, that yields its seat in a bus, and that helps old ladies lift their bags in the train.

The France that is not talked about on the evening news, because its children are not drug dealers, or squatters; they don't burn cars or punch their teachers in the face; the France that no government has to appease because it is so docile, and respectful of the laws and the established order. The nice family-oriented France, Catholic or not, that people sometimes take for a sucker and a chump, to speak frankly.

It was this France that came out en masse, its baby carriages piled high, its young riding atop floats, its children delighted to have escaped the usual Sunday chores. It was this France that came to protest, to cry out, to proclaim: "Fran├žois, we don't want your law!" "Taubira, you're done for, the families are in the street!"

For all those people to suddenly spring into action like that, the cause must have scandalized them, deeply affected and infuriated them.

Among them were no professional demonstrators, none of the old union itinerants that sweep down on Paris like migratory birds as soon as the season for social conflicts arrives and who, from one strike or parade to another, block your way and take your country hostage. No. Our Sunday demonstrators were so innocent that it was necessary to explain to them a few old tricks of the trade: for example: for purposes of the police count they had to spread out on the boulevard, and not stick close to each other; and despite their great numbers they were not to give in to the temptation to use the sidewalks, since sidewalks are not for "demonstrating".

Moreover, the riot police were not their usual tense selves, aware as they must have been that tear gas and broken windows were highly improbable with these peaceful demonstrators who, despite long hours of hanging around and a few provocative signs here and there on balconies, never lost their good humor. One officer even smiled when an appeal over the loudspeaker announced the loss of an iPhone. It was soon recovered. In such a compact crowd, such a valued object turned over to the lost-and-found - this is something you never see.

Though honest, the demonstrators were not complete idiots. When they heard the official figure of 340,000 participants, those among them who had helped organize the JMJ (World Youth Day), knowing perfectly well that the Champ-de-Mars, which had quickly become saturated on Sunday so that many demonstrators could not even get in, can hold eight hundred thousand people, they sensed a fudging of the figures.

Beware of the well-brought-up France and its "diesel" nature: a bit long to warm up, but once lit, the motor is indefatigable.

And on that point, it's the government that may very well go through some rough times ahead.

Below the department of le Vaucluse proudly marches. Like the Olympic Games where every nation parades, on Sunday every department and region, every special association and organization, carried its banners. Unlike the Olympics, however, this was inherently Christian, religious, patriotic, traditionalist and moral.

A reminder that in September 2008, a quarter of a million well-brought-up Catholics gathered for an outdoor traditional Mass at les Invalides in Paris during the visit to France of Pope Benedict XVI.

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