Monday, November 14, 2005

French Riots: Cliff Notes Version

If you're as muddled about what's going on in France as I am, here's a good place to start.

In 1990 Socialist president François Mitterrand described what life was like for jobless ghetto youths warehoused in the overcrowded cités: "What hope does a young person have who's been born in a soulless quartier, who lives in an unspeakably ugly high-rise, surrounded by more ugliness, imprisoned by gray walls in a gray wasteland and condemned to a gray life, with all around a society that prefers to look away until it's time to get mad, time to FORBID?" But Mitterrand's compassionate words masked a failed policy, and fifteen years after his diagnosis the hopelessness and alienation of these ghetto youths' "gray lives" have only become deeper and more rancid still.

If you're looking for a more vigorously ignorant take, try Jonah Goldberg's paean to the destruction of his hated France. Republican feeling towards the French somewhat resembles a drunk's feeling towards his bottle: each taste makes him sicker and sicker, but he can't just toss it aside. He needs it to keep the real demons at bay. In this way, Jonah Goldberg resembles, say, the beloved movie character Arthur, except even less charming.


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