Over the last month or so France had two anniversaries of importance. The first was the 30th anniversary of the 1961 police massacre of 300(This number varies as to left or right.) or so Algerians in Paris. This year was the first time that the French government even admitted that the massacre took place. There was a demonstration at the massacre site in Paris, which in near the Seine. It is rumored that after the massacre the police tossed the dead into the Seine and this caused it to run red. The right in France was livid that the government, that is the left, would even admit that this event took place, let alone have some words of sorrow for the survivors. All the newscasts had this story as their lead on October 17th and gave the story long air play. This is a change because normally France has a general amnesia as to the events that happened during the Algerian war for independence. The next anniversary was the abandoning of the death penalty. I found this to be very interesting in that at the time, 1981 most French were in favor of the death penalty. What happened was that Francois Mitterrand won the 1981 presidential election and during that election he stated that he was against the death penalty, he said “in my conscience I am against the death penalty.” So when he won he had the law changed. This story was in the news for a week or so longer than I would have guessed, what I found most interesting was that Mitterrand, someone that I though of as a political opportunist(He created the Socialist party as his own political vehicle.) would take a stand on principle against the popular will and then not pay a political price as he was reelected.
Euro fever is in full swing as January 1st rapidly approaches, the date the Euro is in and the Frank is out. I found the cutest example of this to be a postman that as he was delivering mail was showing people what the new money looked like and its value to the Franc. Also school children are being thought the Euro, an example was a school that had set up a mock supermarket with all prices in Euros and had the kids doing some food shopping.
Law and disorder.
Recently in France there was a royal judicial screw up in that a violent repeat offender was released under a new law called the “Presumed innocent law” and then went out and during a hold up killed three policeman. Needless to say the police were pissed off and shortly afterward held silent marches through out France to protest and remember those kill in the line of duty. In the last few years there have been a number of police killed in the line of dusty. The fallout of this was interesting in that the judicial blamed the parliament and the prime minister went before parliament and said category that it was the fault of the judges that let the killer out and not the fault of parliament. Also in response to September 11th France passed a sweeping ant-terrorism bill that gives the police even more power to stop and search who ever they want without a cause. Also a part of this bill was some anti rave party legislation that would limit the ability of promoters to hold shows without authorization.
In the beginning the bombing of Afghanistan was the lead story in the nightly news. The French news I thought did a good job of showing the impact of the bombings on the Afghan people and their suffering. I thought one pointed moment was when a man being interviewed said that most Afghans did not even know who Osama bin Laden was. I would have thought that the French population would have been against the bombing as the Afghan people on French TV were made into very human bystanders that have no control over their government. That has no been that case, as a majority of French do support the bombing, this was from a poll done a few weeks ago so this could be changing. The French government from what I can tell is playing the middle, giving words of support to the American/British bombings but not wanting to do any action militarily. The French prime minister stated before parliament that he did not want France to get involved in a war.
France had its own tragedy when a fertilizer factory in Toulouse exploded in September and killed 30, injured 100’s and left thousands homeless. The factory was next to a residential neighborhood and hospital. The explosion damaged a number of schools and has forced some to hold classes in tents. A number of people are still living in shelters as their homes are still not habitable.
The odd couple
France since 1995 has had a “cohabitation” government with the President Jacques Chirac(Rally for the Republic) and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin(Socialist) from different parties. It made for weird politics as there is a presidential election coming up in six months and both are leading candidates. Chirac as president and head of state gets to meet with foreign leaders and get the photo opts whereas Jospin as prime minister and head of government gets to govern. Sometimes both are at the same place at the same time but not together as after the explosion in Toulouse, competing for attention. Other times both are at the same place at the same time together trying to look as they are talking to each other and working together, as was the case a few days ago in London. This should be the last “cohabitation” government as the presidential and parliamentary elections will coincide next year and both terms are for five years.
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It just got easier to be an American in France!
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