Monday, November 28, 2005


After three interminable weeks of nightly violence, the riots and destruction finally ceased, petering out over several days.

No longer is the daily score of burned cars and destroyed buildings being trumpeted in the media - and deplored by everyone. At the same time as the media report the number of prison sentences handed down, the latest criticism of Nicolas Sarkozy (the "hard-line" Interior Minister) from whatever quarter and the jockeying for position by potential candidates in the 2007 Presidential election, its news programs have also reverted to the usual late November fare: Beaujolais Nouveau, the wine auctions on behalf of the Hospices de Beaune, the first snows, emergency shelters for street people and other homeless, the first outdoor Christmas markets of the season, the Fete de Sainte Catherine and the traditional catherinettes, and President Jacques Chirac's birthday.

This year the Socialist Party conference in Le Mans was heavily covered and took up quite a bit of space. The Party, which had recommended - and worked actively for - a "yes" vote on the European Constitution earlier this year, had to reinvent and remake itself to some extent, since the winning "no" on the Constitutional Referendum had proved just how out of touch the Party is with the French people. The divergent positions ("les courants") were reconciled, the leadership shaken up slightly, the pithy quotes attributed, the soundbytes recorded, and the strange-bedfellow handshakes and smiles filmed. The Socialists now must build a platform to convince the people that they remain relevant: according to a survey published in Le Monde just before the conference began and quoted in Le Parisien, 60% of the French think that the Socialists are "unable to win the Presidency in 2007", 58% feel that the Socialists' proposals are "unrealistic", 57% say that the Socialists are "not listening to the French people", and 55% agree that the party is "not adapted to the modern world".

Of course, if one makes the effort to look away from the mainstream news, one can indeed find programs about the riots and their aftermath - the TV screens are filled with talking heads and the radios filled with sonorous voices. Belonging to almost all political persuasions and ethnic groups, the opinions range from angry to smug, from appallingly pessimistic to cheerfully optimistic. What began as simple damage control and as a search for the reasons for violence ("Why are youths in the projects rioting ?") has now evolved into a hunt for answers to two basic questions: "How can we prevent this from happening again ?" and "How can French society fully integrate its immigrant populations ?".

Insofar as the first - immediate prevention - is concerned, the government has decided to maintain the current state of emergency, including selective curfews. It is stationing selected CRS antiriot police units permanently in some "hot" neighborhoods ... while at the same time financing several new volunteer programs for disadvantaged youths, including apprentice schemes from the age of fourteen, rather than the current sixteen. It has chosen to restore financing to many associative "big brother", community mediation and sports programs in the projects; some subsidies for these had been cut from the budget several years ago. It has also announced public housing construction and renovation programs worth hundreds of millions of euros. It has decreed a year-end financial bonus for police mobilized to deal with the riots. Finally, special strike teams composed of investigators, police, gendarmes, tax officers, and customs officials have been hitting hard at organized criminal gangs, which the government is convinced were directly behind some of the riots in the projects. By arresting and charging dozens of individuals, and in some cases requesting deportation from the country, the government is sending a message: the laws of the French Republic shall be upheld in the projects.

The second issue - full integration of immigrant populations - is, of course, complex and one that will not be solved tomorrow by sending in a squad of cops. Suggested courses of action abound, running the gamut from affirmative action through more racial diversity on TV to "anonymous" resumes when jobseeking. The "American model" and the "British model" are being closely studied, diagnosed and discussed in public. One thing is clear: at all costs the government wants to avoid an upsurge of communautairisme, groupings based on ethnic and/or racial identity, which it feels would be counterproductive and not keeping with the French model. Moving to a kind of discrimination positive ("affirmative action") not by race but by neighborhood and income seems to be the current government's position.

The international press has dropped France from the front pages: no more spectacular photos of burning cars are there for the taking ! That doesn't mean the attacks on France and its way of life have been held in abeyance, of course. Amerloque cringed as he read the pontificating Brian Knowlton in the increasingly disconnected International Herald Tribune, offering American "lessons" (sic) to the French for stopping riots and developing integration. Does he think the cultures are the same ? More appositely, given the condescension in his prose, does he think the French are stupid ?

Back in the real world, never has Amerloque seen and heard the question of immigration, the counterpoint to full integration, more discussed in the mainstream media and around the lunch and dinner tables - and not just by those who are alleged to have "far right" opinions. One element recently injected into the debate by the government Minister of Labor, Gérard Larcher, was "polygamy": something like 10,000 to 20,000 immigrant families, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, are apparently polygamous and collecting entitlements. Questions have been asked as to the upbringing of the children, their nationality, and their education. Though tolerated after a fashion up to now, polygamy has been discouraged by the government in recent years. The riots have now focused attention on it - and a lot of non-immigrant French people, heretofore unaware of its existence in France, don't like what they are seeing.

Other questions Amerloque has seen and heard during the past few weeks: Why is it that Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Polish, and Russians were able to integrate so easily ? With all the money spent in the housing projects to date with such little apparent success at integration, should even more money be spent ? What guarantees does French society have that if more money is spent, the troubles won't break out anew ? Should immigration, including family groupings, be stopped ? Should it be based on a quota/point system, like Canada's and Australia's ? What about dual nationality ? Should French nationality be revoked for immigrants who refuse to integrate ? Just what are the "touchstones" for integration and how can they be determined ? Should female excision, a practice sometimes carried out by immigrants from Africa, be more severely dealt with in France than at present ? Should immigrants who practice it be deported ? What about arranged marriages ? Are they acceptable in the eyes of the Republic ? What about a man's refusing to allow his wife to be treated by a male doctor in the emergency room in the local public hospital ? What about closing a taxpayer-financed city/community swimming pool for a hour every day so that women can swim without men ? Should taxpayer money be used to finance mosques ? Buddhist temples ?

Yes, the separation of church and state has again become another hot topic, especially since this year is the centennial year of the Law of July 1st 1905, establishing French laicité and also because Nicolas Sarkozy has stated that the law should be "reworked". With more or less success, the French people have spent over two hundred years, since the Revolution, moving religion to the private sphere and divorcing it from public life - and now have seen community religious leaders in the projects - sometimes in spite of and other times at the behest of government - exercising what might be considered to be undue influence in the commonweal.

Three weeks of nightly riots on TV have thrust quite a few issues into the limelight for the French. Some of the questions raised were studiously ignored for twenty-four years, while some were deemed irrelevant; others were hastily swept under the carpet, and still others were condemned as simply being politically incorrect. After the May, 2002 elections when Jacques Chirac won the presidential runoff against Jean-Marie Le Pen, Amerloque felt that the convulsion to French society was subsequently blunted, blurred and muted in a kind of collective dismissal of the possible ramifications … and the conclusions to be drawn and acted upon. Relatively quickly, a sort of "back to business as usual" sentiment that augured ill for the future permeated the media and the people.

To a certain extent, Amerloque has that same feeling now, after the riots, and it is not pleasant.

With immense respect and affection for his adopted country, Amerloque wonders just what the politicos – of whatever stripe – are doing and just what they want to achieve. For example, the French people voted against the European Constitution earlier in the year … and they have now seen their politicians approving the European Union as it opens negotiations with Turkey concerning admittance to the Union. They have seen negotiations opened with Bosnia. They have seen their public services opened to "competition" … and these same public services, once the envy of Europe and examples to be held up for imitation and emulation, eviscerated. They have seen their overall quality of life decline, not increase. Now they see their projects (les cités) burning, the result of policies put into place and badly implemented by the same people and parties now clamoring for their approval and votes. It is said that reform is impossible in France. Amerloque said in a previous entry:

Amerloque's experience in France has taught him that it would be impolitic to underestimate or misunderstand the French people: they do not practice reform when the situation becomes catastrophic. Rather, they sweep away the existing structure and set up a new one.

"The French are not fools" (dupes), as the old French saying goes ... and in Amerloque's humble view, very difficult times lie ahead.

* * * * *

At no time during the year is the life of an American expatriate in France so contrapuntal to surrounding French life as it is at Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays. Some American expats celebrate on the preceding weekend, while others, Amerloque among them, wait for the day. As a matter of fact, it is one of the high points of Amerloque's year, since he feels that Thanksgiving is a part of him, forever. He clears the decks for the entire four-day weekend … even going so far some years as to prepare a few videocassettes of college football games gleaned and saved carefully since the beginning of the current season.

Choosing the recipes for the meal begins several weeks in advance – Amerloque and Madame A. have several hundred cookbooks and take pleasure every year in reading and shortlisting dishes, carefully checking ingredients and cooking times. With bird flu a possible threat this year, Amerloque and Madame A. decided to add a new dish to the traditional family dinner - a ham – in the event that turkey turned out to be risky. Deciding on what type of ham took quite a bit of time and finding a proper purveyor took even more. Amerloque and Madame A. finally settled on a jambon de Prague (Prazska sunka in Czech) and cooked it up in one of the traditional American ways: baked, with pineapple !

This year's menu finally turned out to be a time-honored one, with the exception of the ham:

Thanksgiving - November 24, 2005

New England Shrimp and Oyster Cocktail
Maryland Style Fried Oysters

Baked Prague Ham with Pineapple
Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing

Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
Cranberry Sauce

Benedictin de Jumiège Applesauce
Traditional Pumpkin Pie

A lot of trouble ? No, not really. The New England Cocktail required a few special ingredients, as did the baked ham, of course, while the applesauce was made from scratch from Benedictin de Jumiège apples (only !) from Normandy. Thanksgiving is a family affair chez L'Amerloque: everyone pitches in and it is always a lot of fun, from finding obscure ingredients to choosing the wines, printing up the menu in color ... and rereading together Art Buchwald's as yet unequalled prose concerning Le Jour de Merci Donnant.


© Text Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque

Monday, November 14, 2005

Day After Day

Nightly rioting has continued in France and is now well into its third week.

Each morning, the civil servants in charge of reestablishing order release the figures attained in the previous night's rampages: so many rioters arrested; so many CRS (the French paramilitary police) injured; so many daycare centers, warehouses and cultural centers torched. Only if one reads between the lines in the papers can one see that the civil unrest appears to be more serious and widespread than it appears at first glance. Several churches and mosques have been torched, for example - whether by rioters or by calmer individuals intent on adding religious fanaticism to the equation is unclear. As of this Monday morning, 593 individuals (486 adults and 107 minors) have been locked up, of the 2646 arrested since the riots began. Of the 593, 375 have been sentenced to jailtime and the rest are in preventive detention (with no bail). Twice last week Amerloque dined outside of Paris, both times in major towns that are préfectures - where the courts sit in judgement. Security in the center of each town, around the courthouses, was very tight. During dinner many, many sirens could be heard: his hosts informed Amerloque that these were the paddywagons bringing rioters caught in the act into central booking and subsequent police courts. The courts are working overtime and in at least one place, the tribunal was even open on November 11, a national holiday.

Based on past experience here, in other man-made and natural disasters, Amerloque feels that it may never really be made clear - at least to the general public - just how widespread the destruction of buildings and infrastructure really is. Numbers such as those above certainly explain why the French government, whose stated priority for the moment is law and order, has decided to impose a state of emergency by reactivating a law first passed in 1955 during the Algerian War. A portion of this law deals with establishing a curfew for both adults and juveniles. Some observers feel that is not enough and that the government is showing "weakness" - or is even "disoriented" and "out of touch". However, it's obvious to Amerloque that the French government has been careful not to overreact, not cracking down hard all over the country but modulating its response in accordance with local circumstances. For example, in Paris proper the right of assembly was severely curtailed ... yet the government permitted an outdoor evening demonstration on the Place Saint-Michel in the Latin Quarter by organizations and individuals opposed to the reinstatement of the 1955 law ! The curfew has been sparingly applied: certainly the overall level of violence seems to be dropping around the country.

Other measures are being taken but, once again, the government appears to be treading that devilishly fine line between over- and underreaction. Convicted non-French adult rioters are scheduled for deportation back to their home country, in accordance with current law. A deputé from the governing party has introduced a bill to withdraw French nationality from naturalized adults and juveniles convicted of participation in the riots. There is talk of taking away entitlements (family allowances, housing and utility assistance) from parents whose offspring were convicted of rioting. The state of emergency will be lengthened from its initial 12-day period to ... 90 days (three months). At the opposite side of the spectrum, a wide range of measures to help the inhabitants of the projects has been outlined by the Prime Minister. It remains to be seen just how relevant - and how effective - these will be. Traditional French solidarity is alive and well: mutual insurance companies have promised all policyholders that claims for their torched cars would be honored ... even if their policies didn't include coverage against fire damage.

The international media have had a field day dragging France through the mud; aiming at the French way of life, its social model, and its attractiveness as a tourist destination. Heavyweights in the international press have been careful to scramble the data for readers in Podunk and Portmeirion by confusing the town of Clichy (on the very edge of Paris, right next to Saint-Ouen where the Flea Market is) and the riot-hit town of Clichy-sous-Bois, which no tourist would ever have reason to visit, quite a few kilometers away. Could serious and honest news organizations involuntarily make the same mistake day after day ? Amerloque is indeed hard pressed to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Too, what should be made of the blatant inaccuracies spewed forth daily by the New York Times-owned, France-hating International Herald Tribune, pushing its Big Apple, politically correct points of view ? One Catherine Field, a "journalist based in Paris", wrote:

In the 1960s, planners chose this spot for a "Grand Ensemble" of public housing to lodge workers who came from North and West Africa in droves to do the dirty, boring and dangerous jobs shunned by the native French.

Field (a "Paris-based journalist", remember) isn't the only one to make such a claim: other reporters and media honchos have said essentially the same thing. One reads such prose ... and one is left with the distinct impression that, sometimes in the 1960s, a gaggle of French bureaucrats sat down and said: "Alors, donc, let's build hundreds - no, thousands, name of a dog ! - of soulless concrete apartment projects on the edges of our big cities and park all our non-white, non-French speaking, immigrants, especially those from Africa, in them ! Then we can allow all these projects to fall apart, say, for the next thirty or forty years !"

Nothing could be further from reality. After World War II, there was a huge housing shortage in France. The entire country was in the throes of rebuilding and modernizing infrastructure and low cost, subsidized housing for everybody was at the top of the list. It was the era of les trente glorieuses ("the glorious thirty years") from 1945 to 1975, when the economy was booming and when jobs were plentiful. These housing projects were designed for everyone, for all French workers, not just for non-white "immigrants". Between 1971 and 1974 Amerloque used to drive out to Mantes-la-Jolie, about forty miles to the northwest of Paris, on Saturday mornings during the school year and teach all day long on a volunteer basis (do note that Amerloque is not a teacher, stricto sensu) in a cultural center in a project called Val-Fourré, today a no-go zone. Then, the immense majority of the Val-Fourré's inhabitants - and Amerloque's students - were what are called français de souche: white, generally working class people. What happened at Val-Fourré and other projects is familiar to socially mobile Americans: as soon as a family was financially able, it moved out to better lodging. Other, poorer families moved in, and those families were immigrants, mostly from Africa.

Amerloque is fully cognizant of the proverb "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." It might even be felt to be quite appropriate in this case, since the French government, in building the original public housing that now makes up the quartiers sensibles ("sensitive neighborhoods", in politicobabble) was certainly acting for the benefit of all the French. However, the governments didn't necessarily realize that a kind of enfer would be awaiting the inhabitants of the housing projects twenty or thirty years hence. The projects were built with good intentions ... yet speaking of the French projects without alluding to their origins is dishonest reporting - it's as simple as that.

Amerloque’s eyes sometimes boggle, too, when reading references to discrimination and rioters in both the French and foreign press. The other day in Le Parisien there was an interview with a 24-year old black French cité kid who was complaining about discrimination. He was quoted as saying “I sent out 10 CVs and only received two answers ! Both were negative !” This was advanced as “proof” of discrimination by him and, one supposes, by the journalist. Ah, if only it were so simple ... Amerloque knows kids (not cité kids: kids from the bourgeoisie, both petite and grande) who have sent out over 600 résumés and are still looking for a job. The cité kid is unhappy because, apparently, he thinks that he’s being discriminated against because he’s from the cité. Maybe - but then again, maybe not. A 20% response rate on a CV is fantastic but he apparently is unaware of it. It is not clear what the reporter is aware of.

Yes, the bottom line is that the cité fellow who was turned down twice still doesn’t have a job … but he is in the same boat as millions of other people, of varying backgrounds and ages, and being a cité dweller has very little – or nothing - to do with it. Reading the press and listening to the media since the beginning of the riots, one has the feeling that only the cité kids are jobless … and that things are generally OK for everyone else, that everyone else has a nice job, that all they do is send out a CV or two and the job comes rolling in. That's fantasy: the admitted French unemployment rate is just under 10% of the working population, all ages and colors and origins taken into account. It’s estimated in some quarters (notably the trade unions) that if the true unemployment figures were released, the total might be closer to 15%, since a) people “in training” are not counted; b) people who didn’t check in to the unemployment officer are not counted (apparently something like 100,000 or so were zapped from the statistics last month alone); c) people over 55 are not counted; d) people fired because of illness are not counted; and so on . The jobs just aren't there to be had. The reality is that the entire country is going through an employment crisis and that there are millions upon millions of people unemployed. One does not have to be from the cité to be unemployed. Once again, media failure to underline this is simply blatant duplicity.

Many French commentators are saying that the riots and rioters are "playing into Jean-Marie Le Pen's hands" (ils font le lit de Le Pen !), and asserting that Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister, is simply attempting to woo the right-wing electorate by "cracking down". It is certainly a point of view - perhaps one not to be too cavalierly dismissed - but to Amerloque's way of thinking it is far too simplistic, even puerile, for the current situation. These are the same pundits who missed the boat in April, 2002, when to their apparent surprise and evident horror Le Pen made it into the runoff election for the French presidency. Amerloque hopes that these opinionmakers exit their offices, take the wax out of their ears, remove their blinkers and circulate among real, live, breathing French people of all backgrounds and political opinions, just as Amerloque does. They'll see that instead of worrying about Le Pen, endlessly fixating on the Front National, and constantly scaremongering, their time could more profitably be devoted to figuring out how French solidarity can be applied so that their poorer compatriots - of whatever color, background and political persuasion - are not left by the side of the road.


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque

Monday, November 07, 2005


For over ten nights running, housing projects throughout France have been the scene of spectacular rioting. The civil unrest is the worst since that which took place during the bad old days of the Algerian War in the early 1960s, and outstrips by far the highly political May, 1968. Thousands of cars and buses (4700) have been torched. Public buildings such as schools, daycare centers, libraries, city police stations, gyms, unemployment offices, cultural centers and bus stations have been burned - along with automobile dealerships, entire small shopping arcades, warehouses and dozens of shops and bus stops. Approximately 1200 rioters have been arrested.

The rentrée has turned out to be unexpectedly chaude, indeed.

So far only there have been few fatalities: two immigrant youths (they were not French citizens: the French press is quite clear about it - as are the laws concerning French nationality. Amerloque keeps up with such things.). It was their deaths which set off the initial rioting. Living in a housing project northeast of Paris, the young men were on their way home from playing soccer. Apparently they fled alleged police pursuit by hiding in an electrical substation … where they were electrocuted. A third youth accompanying them was seriously burned. A week into the rioting, a 61-year old man in front of his own house was attacked without reason by a hooded rioter. The oldster is now in a coma, and is not expected to survive.

Initially the rioting was sparked by rage and anger, a spontaneous protest against the useless, accidental deaths of the youths, who had ignored or simply not seen the huge Danger de Mort signs posted on the fences – and, sadly, paid the ultimate price. After several nights of increasingly violent and spreading unrest Nicolas Sarkozy, the Minister of the Interior and a man known to call a spade a spade unhesitatingly, stated that the rioters were "scum" (racaille) and that they would be "dealt with".

Sarkozy has stated many times that he is "a man who says what he means and means what he says". Himself the son of an immigrant, he did not use the word racaille by accident: he knew full well that in the project communities themselves the word racaille has for many years referred to those youths in the projects who everyone is frightened of: the serious troublemakers, the criminals, the drug dealers, the gang members. In verlan, a type of French slang based on inverted syllables (a flic becomes a keuf) spoken in the projects, such delinquents are called les cailleras. This is common knowledge. Even the current Minister for Social Promotion and Equality, Azouz Begag, a sociologist born in France of Algerian parents, used the term in an article in Le Monde in May, 2002.

This "scum" remark (in addition to sundry comments made by Sarkozy over the summer) was allegedly the oil on the flames, one of the putative reasons that the rioting has now multiplied uncontrollably allover France. Interviews with rioting "youths" in the media invariably reference the "scum" remark. Sheeplike opposition politicians on the left point at the term and bleat for Sarkozy's resignation.

The foreign media have jumped with glee on racaille, rendering it variously as "scum", "yobs", and "riffraff". Moreover, with hyperbole and embellishment ("France Burns", "France in Flames", "French Arson Rampage") they depict the riots as the failure of the "French model of integration". Quite frankly, Amerloque's eyes boggled as he read some of the reports, which at times bordered on science fiction. CNN (that most anti-French station: one wonders about their recruitment policy) even went so far as to telescope the events of several days into a demonstrably false one liner:

The rioting began with the accidental deaths of two teenagers, who ran from police after a tear gas grenade went off in a neighborhood mosque during prayers.

designed to mislead, misinform and denigrate.

Over at the IHT, Katrin Bennhold (a journalist who should know better but who appears recently to have thrust her remaining objectivity aside in favor of outright sycophancy vis-à-vis people and institutions) wrote:

Talk to people outside the Bilal mosque in this rundown suburb north of Paris and they will tell you what has gone wrong: why rioters for the past week have confronted the police in overnight bursts of anger in the streets, torching cars, hurling rocks and even firing bullets in the worst civil disobedience in France in more than a decade.

Molotov cocktails are "civil disobedience" ? Find yourself a good dictionary, Bennhold. Failing that, locate a few former 1956 Hungarian freedom fighters and ask them about their "civil disobedience" !

In France, individuals on the right and left call publicly for deployment of the army in the affected areas. Anyone who is familiar with modern France understands that the government will not shoot down rioters in the streets, although the force to do so exists. The times of the Paris Commune and its bullet-riddled execution walls are long gone. Nor is it the Wild West, here, by a long shot - the shoot-from-the-hip cowboy or Schwartzie action hero is most definitely not a French role model. Gunning down its children - the future of the country - is not the French way. Moreover, the discipline and lack of shoot'em-up mentality of the French riot police, at least up to now, should quite frankly be a matter of justifiable national pride - and not foreign opprobrium.

Given that the majority of rioters (not "youths" but "criminals", as Sarkozy and others have repeatedly pointed out) are immigrants and/or of immigrant origin, a lot of hard, brutal questions about immigration are going to be asked by many heretofore silent, well-meaning citizens. As an immigrant here himself (with both duties and rights), Amerloque feels perfectly entitled to bring up the subject. If thirty years ago, in 1975, say, the French people had been asked "Do you approve of the current immigration policy, which ensures that twenty-five years from now 11% of the French population will be immigrants, including 10% from Africa ?", what would the answer have been ? No prizes for guessing "No", given recent French history. However, the question wasn't asked, and today the French are presented with a fait accompli, which many citizens have found unpalatable. The fact that an enormous number of immigrants are Muslim is just another ingredient, albeit an important one, in the cauldron of witch's brew bubbling merrily in this France of November, 2005 CE.

Other European countries are observing events with interest and varying degrees of private and public alarm, while fervently hoping that copycat rioting doesn't spread to their nations. Foreign security forces are certainly examining evolving French tactics when dealing with highly mobile and cellphone-coordinated groups springing into action, torching one or more soft targets, and vanishing into the shadows. Paramilitary forces will appreciate the use of searchlight-equipped helicopters to follow and photograph fleeing groups. (One helicopter assault in association with ground-based riot containment forces on a multistory apartment block, to capture rioters fleeing from the roof after being teargassed and subsequently hiding out in apartments, was an exemplary exercise which broke new ground here, although those inhabitants who refused to open their doors and had them smashed down by battering rams might feel a bit differently.)

When the last glowing embers are extinguished, as they will be, three main courses of action are to be feared. The first is that the government might err on the side of caution and refrain from requesting tough - but fair - sentences for both adult and juvenile rioters caught in the act. Walking the tightrope between overreaction and underreaction is a difficult exercise for the French judicial system ... but torching a bus full of passengers with a Molotov cocktail is not quite the same as heaving a brick at a line of riot police or tagging a subway car, either. From past observation, Amerloque feels that the system will probably lean toward leniency, handing out sentences involving "works of public interest" (e.g., cleaning graffiti, cutting weeds) when possible, rather than coming down on the side of firmness and real jailtime. This is meritorious ... but it could turn out to be a path fraught with risks, since the message being sent might be misinterpreted by those receiving it.

The second is that basic questions (what the French call les questions de fond) could remain unasked and hence unanswered - questions including but not limited to the nature, desirability, role and activity of immigrants in French society. Should, for example, doctors and nurses and teachers from Third World countries be actively recruited to France, thus depriving the developing world of people it requires to … develop itself ? Should immigrants be allowed to import, apply and teach traditions and customs for the "home" country that are inimical to human rights as practiced in the "host" country ? Should immigrants be allowed to export any and all earnings to the home country, to the detriment of spending earned monies in the host country ? How much and in what form and for how long should French citizens (whether native born or naturalized) be asked to sacrifice to ensure immigrants' integration into French society for the benefit of the commonweal ? Are there any guarantees that integration will in fact take place ? What are the yardsticks ? Asking such questions should be encouraged because the answers should be a matter for national debate and not the province of self-serving politically correct politicians vying for votes. Based on past performance observed here, however, Amerloque does not advise the reader to hold her/his breath on this one.

The third is that the thread of solidarity running through French society might be stretched to the breaking point – or broken altogether. In these times of economic difficulties, it might be hard - or well-nigh impossible - for many French people to feel solidarity … with someone living nearby who might have been out there a few nights ago torching schools, buses and daycare centers. This is bad news for everyone - and no matter what happens this week, this massive threat to French solidarity won't be going away in the foreseeable future.


Text © Copyright 2005 by L'Amerloque