Thanks for all the notes of concern. We are OK; none of the rioting has yet reached the 13th arrondissement. It's a strange situation--here we are rather insulated, and haven't yet seen anything from the riots. In fact, many of my friends didn't know they were even going on until the 7th day (when I mentioned it) because they hadn't watched the news. I keep up through the BBC, New York Times and Le Monde on my computer, so have been reading about it. It's a grave situation, and very difficult to control.
Due to America's history as a nation of immigrants, we have a different take on this, I think. France was not set up the same way, and thus did not have anything in place for dealing with the problems that arise when people settle in their country. Due to the economy being depressed, immigrants have had a very hard time finding jobs. France also makes it difficult for them to get legal work, due to their immigrant status (I am in a similar boat, though my husband is employed legally.) And there is no way to live in France without money--it is an expensive place to live. But the living conditions are so much better than the countries many of the immigrants come from, they are willing to make sacrifices to come here. We see the same thing in the US with immigrants from Mexico and Central America--the benefits outweigh the risks.
However, in France, I have not seen evidence of the government going to great lengths to help the immigrants to find work or to have decent housing, and tension was mounting. It is almost impossible to believe the government didn't see this coming--but it seems they had an attitude of "ignore it and it will go away."
Unfortunately, that doesn't work, and they are now finding out what kind of power people have when they are desperate. I am very concerned as to what is going to happen. It's a scary time to be here, but I really believe it could happen anywhere.
The fact is, all people need to be treated with respect, no matter where they come from or where they go. The world is just too small. We can no longer discriminate against someone due to their skin color, religion, or upbringing--not that we ever should have, but it happened and continues to happen all over the world. But now, more than ever, we have learned that this kind of discrimination is not just unethical, it can be lethal.
Below is a quotation from the Parler Paris newsletter I read twice a week. The writer, Adrian Leeds, has lived in Paris for many years, but is a native New Orleanian. She lives in the Marais, north of where Dr. B and I live.
"To ignore the Paris riots would be irresponsible on my part, but I must tell you, that if it weren't for my CNN news alerts, I wouldn't know they were happening. That's not to say that my head is "in the sand," but living in central Paris, there has been no sign of the angered destruction taking place in the "banlieue" (suburbs) or in other parts of France -- until last night, when a car was burned in the Marais.
I caution all those watching and reading American media so as not to overexaggerate the true situation. Remember that the American media is run by entertainment organizations that tend to sensationalize the news to build ratings. Remember that they usually take the same 20-second "sound bite" and run it every hour on the hour or more often leading you to believe the event is happening in continuous motion, rather than done and past. Remember that in Paris, the rich live in the center and the poor live in the suburbs -- the opposite of the U.S. condition of the inner cities vs the wealthy "burbs."
There is no question of the seriousness of the situation. For a very long time the poorly treated immigrant pot has been simmering and predictions of it coming to a boiling point have been whispered about. Now the time has come for France to pay for its mistakes vis a vis its poor and suffering immigrant population, mostly of North African and West African origin, who are jobless and grossly discriminated against. I remind myself that I, too, am an immigrant in France, but my white face and western background don't threaten the French middle class.
Craig S. Smith of the New York Times reminds us that "Just two months ago, the French watched in horrified fascination at the anarchy of New Orleans, where members of America's underclass were seen looting stores and defying the police in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."
In his article "France Has an Underclass, but Its Roots Are Still Shallow" published November 6, 2005, he continues, "The corrosive gap between America's whites and its racial minorities, especially African-Americans, is the product of centuries: slavery, followed by cycles of poverty and racial exclusion that denied generation after generation the best the United States could offer. France, on the other hand, is only beginning to struggle with a much newer variant of the same problem: the fury of Muslims of North African descent who have found themselves caught for three generations in a trap of ethnic and religious discrimination."
Now both sides of the Atlantic are getting a taste for their just rewards. While the rioting is destructive, just like Katrina was, it sheds new light on problems that need to be addressed NOW, not tomorrow, and for our pain and suffering will come renewed enlightenment. Just like my cast will help heal my torn ligaments, so shall the uncorralled and violent expression strengthen the cause.
Call me the ultimate optimist as one of France's more welcome immigrants, but I see a brighter future for an ailing community from a more tolerant government.
Paris is still Paris. Paris will always be Paris and this, too, shall pass."