French Riots — Slowing Down? Time To Determine Root Cause?

Posted By: 'Okie' | 12:05 pm — 11/8/2005 | Comments Off on French Riots — Slowing Down? Time To Determine Root Cause? See comments below:

I remember the LA Riots in 1992. I had not watched any of the Simi Valley trial of the police officers that were accused of beating Rodney King, but I did watch the return of the verdicts, and continued to watch as the violence began in South Central Los Angeles. I can still vividly call up the images of Reginald Denny being dragged from his truck at the intersection of Florance and Normandy, then him being kicked and stoned nearly to death, before a brave black good-Samaritan managed to get him out of there. The reality of the police being given the order NOT to go into the area, just letting it burn, was surreal to say the least. The violence spread out north of the I-10 into Hollywood and West Hollywood. Smoke columns rising high into the sky were solemn sentries to the 53 known deaths.

So, France has suffered its first death in the riots that are now 12 days old, over 300 cities and towns have been affected, and the Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has finally announced that there will be curfews. About time?

The Republic faces a moment of truth … France is wounded. It cannot recognize itself in its streets and devastated areas, in these outbursts of hatred and violence which destroy and kill,” Villepin told the lower house of parliament.

“A return to order is the absolute priority. The government has shown this. It will take all the steps necessary to ensure the protection of our citizens and to restore calm … We see these events as a warning and as an appeal.”

I don’t understand the French. I’ve tried, as for awhile I had fairly regular contact with a first-gen immigrant to the US in a business relationship, and I never could figure out that guy, except that he was really French! But fellow SCBA blogger Laer Pierce seems to have a handle on it today in his post on the riots:

The French modèle républicain d’intégration holds that all citizens of France are equal, even as the riots prove that some citizens are more equal than others.

How many are more equal? How many are less? We don’t know because the French model does not allow the government to consider differences within the French population. There is no count of Arab-French or African-French vs. French-French, no comparative economic data, no comparative education data, no comparative sociological data.

This is why the French coverage of the riots has been so devoid of mentions of the ethnicity of the rioters. It is unfrench to call them anything but French.

Bingo! I don’t think that I will complain quite so much in the future when our government questionairs ask whether I’m caucasion, hispanic, or whatever. Although I actually think that it is important for all of us to consider ourselves as Americans first, and racial, cultural or religious second in regards to our governing activities, what is going on in France is a slap-in-the-face with the cold rag of realization of just what can happen when an entire segment of society falls through the cracks. It’s Orwellian in nature because the French model does not give the citizens of France the vocabulary in which to discuss the underlying problems. And problems this severe, that have existed for such a long time, cannot lead to much of anything good. How can they fix it if they can’t understand it?

And that brings us to a point made by another SCBA blogger, Bill Rice, who is taking other SCBA bloggers to task, asking them to reconsider their beliefs that the current riots in France are religious in nature.

Dawn’s Early Light has taken the position the French riots are largely a result of French domestic policies which have contributed to a long-term high unemployment rate [Prior DEL posts here and here]. While religion is a portion of the issue of the riots, it is, in DEL’s opinion, a small one at this point, though the news stories like to phrase it with religious overtones.
(…)
Dawn’s Early Light’s position is that it is not likely because I hold the position it is a fundamental problem with France’s economic structure, and while the issue could morph into a religious uprising, it is not its genesis. (…)

Another SCBA blogger, John Gillmartin, disagrees. I’m finding myself caught somewhere in the middle. Looking back to ’92, although the not-guilty verdict in the King beating trial was the spark that set LA ablaze, something else fanned the flames and fueled the fires. Poverty and unemployment are trotted out by liberals as root causes of discontent leading to violence, but that begs the question, why don’t all poor and disadvantaged peoples rise up and smite those that they perceive as the haves? What else was going on in Los Angeles, and is going on in France?

Well, two things come to mind. First, in both cases the authorities pretty much just let things happen. Only after several days of burning and looting, after the initial energy was drained, did the LAPD go in and establish order, but all over SoCal there were curfews. Santa Monica was a ghost town from dusk ’til dawn. The National Guard had to be called out as well. After 12 days and nights in France, they are finally establishing curfews? Kinda makes you wonder, what’s the big rush?

Second, media coverage. We saw the LA riot live, via copter-cam, and so did those that then came out and joined the fun. Looters grinned like idiots at news cameras as they jumped out of shop windows with TVs and boom boxes. In France, there have been 12-nights of news coverage of Paris and other cities on fire, live, in real time. It’s Max Headroom become reality to the max! Poor, disaffected French-Muslim youth love to see themselves on TV, rampaging and burning, just like our poor, disaffected black youth did in LA. So maybe Bill Rice is correct in his analysis.

But, and it’s a big but, we were lucky here in ’92, as there was not an organized Al Qaeda, at least not embedded in the U.S. enough to take advantage of the situation. That’s not true in Europe today. Which puts France firmly skewered on the horns of a nasty dilemma. Do they redefine what it means to be French? Or, do they try to beat down this social/ethnic/religious threat to their stability and security? It could be far too late for option number-one, and option number-two will surely bring Al Qaeda and the French Muslims that have been terror-trained in the Middle East in with a vengeance.

Not going to be much fun being French for awhile. Guess we’ll just wait and see how this all turns out. “Viva’ La’ France” (db)

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