Madame Liberté

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What are you pointing at? I was taken aback and not just because I was once, by marriage, part of a Jewish family and then again, by romance, part of another one. Her philosophical principle, or call it her prejudice, if you will, was laid bare, and my previously liberal-minded intellectual friend, so generous toward me and so good natured in all other respects, sounded now just like the French right-wing extremists I had long thought were the enemies of freedom.

What if a woman or a man wanted to wear a prominent crucifix as a necklace, or a Buddhist or Hindu wanted to wear prayer beads around his wrist? Do you want to take those freedoms away as well?

Madame exploded and cursed me. Maybe cancelled our dinner plans and said goodbye, perhaps to see her in another year or so. Madame dug in her heels; I dug in mine.

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I think that means let people do their own thing. Get out of the way. And, besides, France joined the European Economic Union, willingly adopting the open borders policy which means that immigration is bound to be more fluid.

The wealth of France and the educational and employment opportunities here look pretty damn good to Middle Eastern or North African people who have been mired in poverty for centuries. Of course they want to come here. I would. Now, how can it make any sense to try to strip away from people the culture they bring with them? And the Jews have been here since forever…. Madame would not let me go on or finish the argument. She pressed her case. France is for the French. I could hold my own, even if I did not know the current slang and often tangled up my conjugations.

There have been waves of immigrants here for at least two hundred years.


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And much of that immigration has been a spin off from French colonialism in Africa, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. France has to be a pluralistic society, like it or not. The head scarf has to go. The Arabs treat their women like shit. That has to be stopped. As for the Jews, they have always been a French problem. I was relieved she stopped there. We walked to the nearest Metro station. Our sweet day of hanging out in the City of Lights was obviously over. There was one more outburst before she descended to the subway. Two boys, both of them fucking Arabs. I came very close to being knifed.

The principal happened to be cruising the halls after classes, and he passed my classroom door just as they went after me.

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He may have saved my life or at least a big scar on my face. Madame did not look back, did not say goodbye, and never contacted me again. I doubt that Madame joined the street protest in Paris recently because her solidarity is not with the forces of secular pluralism. The hijab Islamic head scarf was indeed banned, under President Jacques Chirac, in , and this was a relatively more liberal government than that of President Nicolas Sarkozy that followed. Thus France drifts ever rightward despite hordes of protesters in the streets defending the liberal principle of free speech.

It is a truism in sociology that poverty breeds crime. A corollary is: Religion-centered education breeds conservative religion-based prejudice. These patterns are as evident in the U. The ghettoized French Muslims live largely in high-crime, religiously conservative neighborhoods.

Madame liberté

Paris is now essentially a city surrounded by poor neighborhoods heavily populated with immigrant and first generation Muslims, apparently producing new radicals every day. France competes with neighbor Belgium for the dubious distinction of having exported the most citizens to Syria and elsewhere, for jihadist training.

France has the biggest Muslim population of any country outside the ancient Islamic world. These are all facts of French social and economic life. Vastly higher unemployment rates in the suburbs across generations; weaker, less-well-funded schools; less workable neighborhood infrastructure; more violence and crime burning of cars parked in the streets is common ; and essentially nothing to offer in a rehabilitative way for young people who go off the track.

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But the French do not yet seem to have come to terms with these ironies. France has had until very recently one of the lowest emigration rates of any European country. It is a country with a disproportionate impact, relative to size, on the worlds of culture and thought, not to mention cuisine. All of France would fit inside the state of Texas, but the contribution to world culture by the French people is essentially unparalleled except by the U.

Even when the economy is sour and it has been stuck in slow- or no-growth mode for decades under the burden of a top-heavy state socialism , the French tend to stick it out and stay home. They love their country, and why not? The same France described here, beset with these social and economic problems, remains one of the top tourist economies in the world.

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