30 May 2005

le "non" de France...

I have a suspicion that the French didn't vote down the EU constitution because they necessarily think that it is a bad thing. I think it probably is more of a reaction to the "inaction" of Chirac's government to the "immigration problem."

The French are too polite and hesitant to publicly air dirty laundry about the non-French (read Muslim) population in the country, but they are a proud people devoted to their heritage or at least their sense of the heritage. Since the more-or-less open door policy to Algerians, Morrocans, and other Islamic nationals the French are feeling a tremendous pressure on their secular form of government and religion. Add to that the influx of Easter Europeans as cheap labor since the old Eastern Bloc entered the EU and there is even more of an attack on tradition.

Though technically a Catholic country, very few of the French, especially in Paris, attend even Sunday mass. This is not a new thing. They have always been this way - at least since the French Revolution. They inherently mistrust anyone who wants to tell them what to do. Hence, Chirac's response that the people had "spoken" in their vote.

I travel to France, almost always Paris, once or twice each year. I don't play the typical tourist. I usually go for opera and to loose myself in a place where I feel comfortable. I have always found the French extremely polite and friendly, unlike what most US citizens believe, but I learned long ago the trick to getting along in Paris: remember that they are polite to the nth degree, live on tradition that borders on protocol and try to speak the language. The last is very important since most all French people under the age of 50 speak/understand English because it is a required course in school. I speak French and what usually happens is that when they hear my accent they want to practice their English and ask lots of questions about what is happening in the US.

I, on the other hand, want to spend my time immersed in the long-time love affair I've been having with Paris.

I've been visiting France for 30 years and on each successive visit I notice the incursion of "foreign" influence and the hesitancy of the French to confront it. I don't particularly like it as a francophile, so I can just imagine what the French think about it. They must believe that their way of life is under attack and the government will do nothing substantive to combat it. The vote may have been their way of saying, "Enough!"

I only hope that the French, as well as the rest of the world, can finally see their way out of a very perplexing conundrum. I don't think that the EU is a bad idea. I have seen the very positive effects it has had over the years. I only hope that the centuries' old nationalism that was a mainstay in Europe can find a way to live along-side the changes occurring because I don't think they are going to go away.

plus ca change...

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