The debate

It is still the Presidential elections in France and last night was the great debate, which I didn’t find so great, but I did find rather fun to watch. French political debates are very different from my memories of US Presidential debates. Instead of standing officially at lecterns, each candidate is comfortably seated, with their notes. They face each other, not the voters, which helps tensions rise and makes for some great tv moments. As does the fact that the candidates do not have a set time limit for each answer. From an anglo-saxon perspective, this is not a debate, but a moderated argument, that turns into an intellectual free for all.

If I had any doubts as to the tone of the debate, I had only to look at the stage set, which closely resembled an electrified, post-modern gladiator arena from the days when Astérix and Obelisk were tormenting their Roman landlords in a Paris that was known as Lutèce.

Two journalist join the candidates at a table that, in keeping with the ancient roman theme, resembles a gladiator’s shield when seen from above. Their official role is to ask the questions, balance each candidate’s speaking time and try to keep the debate moving forward. Their unofficial role is to prevent it from coming to blows.

In true forum style, candidates quickly go beyond the gallic shrug and show their latin roots as they pound fists on the table, point fingers and throw insults at one another. And what never ceases to amuse my anglo upbringing is that they interrupt each other. Loudly and for an extended period of time, so that voters, hoping to be more informed, and perhaps make a decision based on some facts, never actually hear any facts.

Following another anglo tradition, my New Zealander friend Koko has an important note for the socialist party’s candidate; your party’s colors are red, not blue, red. Change the glasses, get a new tie and for heaven’s sake man, show some pride in your team! Nobody, but nobody in the French press has mentioned this little faux pas, so my best guess is that in France, this is not a faux pas. Red is simply not ‘in’ this year and no matter what your political allegiance may be, this is Paris… fashion first!

After talking to Koko, I made a point of noticing that the two journalists on the set. They were both clad in a judicial, neutral black. Très chic


Mayday, mayday

Tomorrow is May Day and it is going to be a big political day here in Paris, with the party-who-shall-not-be-named throwing their annual fiesta at the foot of the Jeanne d’Arc statue on the rue de Rivoli. Poor Joan. Really, it was not enough that the English burned her at the stake, she had to be adopted as a symbol by the nationalist party? Did anyone ask her thoughts on the subject? I’ll be avoiding that area, as I do every year.

Not to be out done, the Presidential candidates have decided to throw some parties of their own, with Hollande (the candidate, not the country) calling for members of his party to join the unions as they walk from Denfert Rochereau to storm the Bastille. Although I presume his campaign manger will be staying home nursing a hangover, after the party he attended this weekend with Daniel Strauss-Kahn. Seriously? The week before the elections and Hollande’s men are already flirting with the world’s sleaziest flirt? Sarkozy, who seems to be arriving a bit late to the whole game, intends to take over the Trocadero, or perhaps the Champs de Mars; he wasn’t sure the last I checked Le Monde. ALthough, facing France’s military academy, L’Ecole Militaire shows there is a lot of conflict in the air.

Personally, I’d rather be visits museum, but they close for May Day. I’d rather go shopping, but the stores close, too. If the weather was nice, I’d go for a hike, but its not looking like the weather is going to be nice. Au secours…. damsel in distress!!!

La honte*

a visual moment of silence

This week, I am ashamed to be French. This week, Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the Front National, a racist, anti-immigration, anti-Europe, far right political party received 18% of the popular vote in the presidential elections. This distressing news has captured the national headlines, with people decrying the fact that 1 in 5 French have racist tendencies. I estimate that it is probably worse than that, once you’ve removed the Jews, Muslims and immigrants from the calculations. You would remove these groups because that is what Le Pen would like to do, remove us from France, so it is very unlikely many of us actually voted for her. The party-who-must-not-be-named (I am avoiding using their name or initials for Google reasons) is the 3rd most important political party in France. Things were only slightly worse in 2002, when the party-who-must-not-be-named candidate was actually in the second round of voting, and was dangerously close to actually being elected the president of France.

For an interesting slice of life, we heard the result during dinner with E and two of her close friends. One whose father survived the Rwandan genocide, another whose mother educated herself out of the Marrakesh Medina. Both of these heros immigrated to France, both became doctors and both now have international careers, making this world a healthier place for the whole world.

I have to be honest, as a Jew, an immigrant and an incurable globe-trotter, I have never really followed this party’s program in great detail. It was enough for me to know that they would not be getting my vote. I could not quote any of their proposals or cite any of the changes they’d make. But not long ago, someone I know well mentioned that she and many of her friends were considering voting for Le Pen. At first, I was in shock. It is tragic, but I eventually understood why she’d been led astray. She is French, middle class and relatively young. None of the candidates are speaking to her, yet she represents a large percentage of the population. Then you read the party-who-must-not-be-named’s proposals and they talk about cutting budget costs and protecting France and it sounds reasonable. In fact, it sometimes sounds like they are the only party offering a solution. Tragically, it is the wrong solution, but it is easy to see how people get taken in. In order to convince her otherwise, I went into research mode.

I learned from their site that the party-who-must-not-be-named wants France out of the Euro zone, to re-enforce its borders, and install a zero-tolerance policy towards crime. One of its key proposals would reduce the titres de séjours for visitors wishing to stay more than 3 months from 200,000 per year to 20,000. That means less foreign students, less foreign workers and less ex-pats. In a time of globalization, this all sounds like a pretty bad idea and it hides some of the more sinister aspects of their plan, like turning out all illegal immigrants and denying them medical care. I then went to SOS Racisme to see what the other side, my side, had to say. The party-who-must-not-be-named was founded by the current candidates father, a man who has been to court and condemned countless times for his racism. A man who is President of the party. Which does not seem to bother nearly 1/5th of my countrymen, but it certainly bothers me.


SOS Racisme


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...