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decorAnd Meanwhile


by Maurice Ulrich


Translated Wednesday 23 March 2011, by Harvetta and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Today’s visit by Nicolas Sarkozy to Puy-en-Velay to salute the "patrimonial heritage of France" is a mascarade and a provocation. A mascarade, because it is a pretext totally out-of-sync with the real problems of France and the French people today. A mascarade, because it’s a show. The selection of the city, like the president’s planned visit to the cathedral, the baptismal font and the cloister are also symbols a few days before the Machiavellian debate the UMP plans to launch on April 5 on secularism, but will really be about Islam.

Let us recall from a tourist point of view that Puy which is, by the way, a very nice place dominated by a giant statue of the Virgin Mary and this large, very beautiful cathedral built of volcanic stones, is a stop on the Saint Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route. This would not deserve comment, specifically, if the president had not chosen to make it the backdrop for the theatrical show he’s going to put on there. And this is the provocation: using a city, its inhabitants and yes, religion itself for political objectives.

The general meaning of his visit — which will by greeted by a protest this morning by trade unions and left wing organizations – is not less clear. It is, within the straight line of his various political initiatives this year and of his Sunday speech, to pit the real France and its so-called Christian origins against everything else that threatens it. Delinquent foreign youth, Gypsies, multiculturalism, migratory flows due to revolutions and all that, the bottom line, is summed up in Islam. It’s hateful to the point that some on the right thought they needed to take precautions which leave us wondering. Such as François Fillon: "If this debate would stigmatize the Muslims of France, I would oppose it." If it would. A nice use of the conditional as a way to position himself as a orderly taking care of an insane person, in a sort of role sharing. And at the same time, last night the UMP, which according to Hervé Novelli welcomed Eric Zemmour, recently ordered to pay a fine for his racist rants, as a "dear friend," showered Zemmour with praise. Zemmour, who is still invited to appear on at least one public service broadcast, by the way. Why?

The polls are sagging. The president’s word no longer carries authority, the show of will power has burned out and has no credit left. The voice of France, despite shrugs of the shoulder and jutting of the chin (statements full of pompous rage and no action), only became weaker. Unemployment is rising, purchasing power is falling, profits are dancing a waltz. None of the promises of the former candidate have been kept except — and this is certainly not a minor detail – the tax shelter and now the probable elimination of the wealth tax. But, don’t make any mistake. All that will not necessary make the French turn to the Left in general, not even to a Socialist Party waiting for the Messiah.

And it’s precisely on the discontent and confusion engendered by these politics that the Front National plans to prosper, coloring its discourse with social concern and republicanism, all the while cultivating the rich earth of xenophobia, racism, and exclusion. These are the fields fought for by the right wing and Nicolas Sarkozy, as the only way they see to win in 2012.

Should we wait? Nothing would be more dangerous. Now all women and men who recognize themselves in a humanist, secular, republican, France of social progress and justice can say "that’s enough" and, in debate, start to rebuild.

And even all of that won’t necessarily make the French turn to the Left.

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