Thursday, April 07, 2005

It didn't have to end up this way.

I remember as a college student the manifestations against the one-sided pursuit of "secularism" in the lycees - no veils for muslim girls as France was a republic, and it was expected that one live under the principles of the Republic (no enforcement for crosses, however). I remember trying hard myself to fit in there, but failing. I remember the policies in place for getting permission to stay in the country and how absurd they seemed. (A doctor had at one point explained to me when I asked why I was getting a syphilis test six months after my arrival when I could have infected 2/3 of the Hexagon at that point if I'd tried - also, didn't it make more sense to test for le SIDA? He said disarmingly franchement that it was largely to discourage les maghrebins. I also remember that about the only Francophones I associated with aside from the people I was living with were maghrebins (this was a fair cause for concern to the lady of the house). It was tense during the first Gulf War, but for the most part, the people who were close to me were kind enough. Some had even said that, given France's treatment toward their former colony, if an American were to run for president in Algeria, he could very well be elected.

What happened? Racism, misplaced shame combined with multiculturalism and laziness, the mismanagement and subsequent non assimilation of immigrant populations, and a particularly ugly variety of Islam taking the place of what institutions should have been there to help people. Not just in France, but throughout Europe, from what I can see. I can't wrap my mind around this. Heck, not that I care too much, as French is French, but it seems awfully ironic que si jamais je decide a me rendre quelque part ou je pourrais m'immerser en une langue qui es un peu plus commode, il serait bien plus pratique a tenter ma chance au Maghreb, a Liban. We'll see.

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