Monday, November 07, 2005

We're Safe

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."

_________________________________________________

11 Comments:

At 11:59 AM, November 07, 2005, Anonymous Roxanne said...

I'm so glad you are safe. Sorry I had not asked yet (no internet at home, not at JOsh's this weekend).

Remain Safe, update us often

 
At 4:08 PM, November 07, 2005, Blogger afoos said...

Hi Ronica, I do agree with you that there is some sort of underlying racism in France, I see it everyday when I talk to my students about getting jobs and find out that those with colored skin have a more difficult time. Definitely something needed to happen for the country to see firsthand this racism (much like Katrina taught me much about how the white privileged classes still see the underprivileged classes). But, I have a tendency to disagree on the govt. not helping these people. RMI, HLMs, places in the impregnated and overflowing creches, free universal healthcare for anyone. And the recent catastrophe in the 13th a couple months ago just strengthened my belief on this issue. Guess this is one of our soapboxes (Etienne can get really started on this subject too). Usually, keep quiet when I tend to disagree because I don't like conflict, but this one just can't keep quiet on. Please don't hate me!

 
At 2:07 AM, November 08, 2005, Blogger La Rêveuse said...

Yep, you're right, I don't know much about it. But I do know that there are loopholes, and there are things the governments do just "for show" that in reality don't always make the mark.

I could use free universal health care for example.

Which they didn't give to me.

Though Dr. B and I have been married 9 years, and he was asked to come to France to work by the CNRS, a part of the french government.

Loopholes.

I also see this in the US--though our government does a lot to help immigrants, there are always loopholes that make it very difficult to come to the other country. It's easy to welcome the priveleged, but the destitute, well, frankly, "they can stay where they come from."

I'll learn more the longer I am here, but I believe there must be a reason for such widespread rioting, and a reason more valid than "they are just like that" or "they have no reason, we do a lot for them"--you don't riot for that.

Enlighten me.

 
At 3:57 AM, November 08, 2005, Blogger afoos said...

I totally agree with the loophole thing. Guess who is living in those HLMs at les Halles? It's not the underprivileged, but rather the friends of the mayor. Having lived her for 4 years, we've had to try and get around these loopholes, as France is a country of red tape.

My opinion on the riots is that racism is just a pretext for the underlying issue, which is more an issue of authority. The police in France are "con" and definitely not out to help anyone, not even the white, everyone I've ever met agrees, and it's definitely not the bourgeois classes who are going to stand up to that or make a statement. It just so happens that those who are going to stand up happen to be of another color, and because of that a whole other issue, that of racism and the govt. not helping, has opened up. But, that's just my take.

As for healthcare, there definitely has to be some loophole you can get through. We were just talking about this last night with Etienne. A doctor, a hospital cannot refuse care. You have something called CMU, which is universal coverage for everyone. We have a friend who lives in Cambridge, has never worked in France. The British doctors declared that his cancer was terminal and therefore wouldn't do anything to help him. A doctor in France agreed to to some experiemental chemo, but to do that, he had a battle with the SS because treatment is very expensive and they didn't want to cover him. But, in the end, he was covered. Your situation is definitely a gray area, but knowing France, there has to be some way around it.

You and Mr. B need to come over and have dinner so that we can enlighten you on those loopholes and how to get through them! Being American, I felt badly at first trying to manipulate the system, but if you don't, you are crushed from those who do.

 
At 12:01 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger L'Amerloque said...

Hello !

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."

With all due respect, you really haven't been here long enough to know what you are talking about. For the past thirty years successive goverments, on the left and on the right, have been spending billions of dollars in housing, education and jobs for the immigrant populations. The problem is that what was done just hasn't worked. By the way, of course the government has seen this coming: they're not fools, you know. (smile)

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.

You're much safer here than in similar circumtances in the USA. You don't want to be going into the projects, though, even during the daytime, until this dies down. Would you go into Bed-Stuy or Compton during riots ?

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.

Adrian Leeds is primarily interested in selling her real estate and filling up her so-called "travel seminars". She has little idea of what living full time as a real immigrant, with rights and duties, in France really means. Quoting her about France is like quoting, say, Robert Mugabe about farming Great Britain. You might want to go over to the Advice Goddess blog, where AL was the subject of some pretty revealing posts last year …

Craig S. Smith over at the New York Times fails to take into account the history of France and North Africa. He states: "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." He doesn't even refer to the colonialist era and the Algerian war of Liberation. The NY Times hates France and one must always read its articles with wariness. Frequently they bear little relation to reality.

By the way, you missed all the action in the 13th arrondissement. Yesterday in criminal court three teenagers were tried for having over twenty Molotov cocktails in one of the parks. They were picked up by the police on Saturday night. Each of the youths was sentenced to 150 hours of community service, instead of prison, since it was a first brush with the law …


L'Amerloque

 
At 1:01 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger La Rêveuse said...

Hello, Amerloque,


"With all due respect, you really haven't been here long enough to know what you are talking about."

I know, if you notice, I didn't say much. Just trying to inform my family back home of what I know from here.

"The problem is that what was done just hasn't worked. By the way, of course the government has seen this coming: they're not fools, you know. "

You kind of contradict yourself--if they did know what was coming, and knew that this hasn't been working for 30 years, why hasn't it been addressed before now?

"You're much safer here than in similar circumtances in the USA. You don't want to be going into the projects, though, even during the daytime, until this dies down. Would you go into Bed-Stuy or Compton during riots ?"

No, I said it (the situation) was scary--I didn't mean that I was literally cowering in the corner. It's scary in the same way 9-11 was scary to me in my classroom in rural Wisconsin. The only place I go at night is either to the movies, to a restaurant, or to walk the dog. And I won't be walking that far! :)

"Adrian Leeds is primarily interested in selling her real estate and filling up her so-called "travel seminars". She has little idea of what living full time as a real immigrant, with rights and duties, in France really means. Quoting her about France is like quoting, say, Robert Mugabe about farming Great Britain. You might want to go over to the Advice Goddess blog, where AL was the subject of some pretty revealing posts last year … "

I just thought she explained a few things that my family wouldn't have known in a concise manner that didn't lean too far either way OR get bogged down in gobbledygook political jargon. I know my audience (they're my family) and most of them turn a deaf ear to that type of thing. They want the basics, and that's enough. I am not trying to be a political site--there are quite enough of those!

"Craig S. Smith over at the New York Times fails to take into account the history of France and North Africa. He states: "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." He doesn't even refer to the colonialist era and the Algerian war of Liberation. The NY Times hates France and one must always read its articles with wariness. Frequently they bear little relation to reality."

OK, so now we know all about Craig Smith.

I admit I don't know much about the situation--I am just learning. There are so many conflicts in so many parts of the world--I would have to devote a lot of time to studying current events. Right now, I am just trying to figure out what is going on around me.

"By the way, you missed all the action in the 13th arrondissement. Yesterday in criminal court three teenagers were tried for having over twenty Molotov cocktails in one of the parks. They were picked up by the police on Saturday night. Each of the youths was sentenced to 150 hours of community service, instead of prison, since it was a first brush with the law …"

What park? Where? When? Huh? (oblivious, that's me!) I did see cops at P d'I, but that was more recent. I guess I missed it in the BBC, Le Monde and NYT (which I know is biased, but what isn't? By the way, if you want to talk biased, how about Fox News?) We just got a TV the other day, and listen mainly to the jazz station, so I'll be honest that I haven't been ravenously devouring the news. I want to know what's going on, but I do not want to spend all my waking hours finding out. There are too many great things in this wonderful city and country to discover, and my time is limited.

But again, just a reminder, this is not a political site. I did this for (mainly) my family and friends back in the midwest, and have gained readers from elsewhere somehow (I'm not quite sure where.) It's fine, but don't expect long political discussions, because it's not gonna happen. Except for this one, that is. Sorta.

:)

 
At 1:03 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger Karina said...

actually a lot of those unemployed, rioting youths are fully french citizens, 2nd or even 3rd generation. they should get jobs but are often very discriminated against. not exactly the same situation as you...

 
At 1:44 PM, November 08, 2005, Blogger La Rêveuse said...

That's it.

Done responding to this crap, and if it continues, I'll just delete this post once and for all.

I don't want this.

As my yoga teacher taught me--let it go. It is not yours. You do not want it. Don't let it take you.

Let it go.

I am asking you all to do the same.

Please.

 
At 3:00 PM, November 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure that the French gov't will look after their people...perhaps just a bit slow to respond same as U.S Bush Gov't response to Hurricane Katrina relief effort this past fall? But, governments i suppose are all infamous for red tape.
>> All I can say that I have lived in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) for my entire life (33 yrs - gulp!) and have never seen any type of violence like L.A Riots or French Riots. I guess it just goes to show you that unfortunately, rascism is still a very tender subject. You would think in the year 2005 that race/culture/religion didn't matter. Did you know that Toronto is one of the most multi cultural cities in the world. We are a population of 2.5 million - 169 different countries represented in that pop. Over 100 different languages spoken in our city. I am truly grateful and proud to be Canadian!
"Dr. B's" cuz Stephanie

 
At 6:39 PM, November 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please Dr B's cuz from Toronto....don't tell me you are trying to tell us there is no racism in Canada?? I have been to Canada many times and heard the comments from white Canadians about the E Indians, Chinese, Jamaicans

 
At 10:19 AM, November 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nope, didn't say that racism didn't exist in toronto... unfortunately, i'm pretty sure it it exists everywhere...just was putting a few stats out there about T.O and that I'm happy to be a Canadian. Thats all... I'm glad you have visited - as I mentioned, we have alot diversity and gorgeous scenery for you to enjoy! Hope you will come back again.
> cuz in T.O

 

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