Update: I spoke a bit to soon about no violence around the one-year anniversary of last year's "riots". As reported here
(among many other news outlets), some youths set fire to a bus in Marseille, seriously injuring a female student who remains in the hospital with burns over 60% of her body. I've loosely followed the story in the papers, where it's gotten considerable attention from Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who fanned the flames last year when he publicly decried the banlieue
youth as "racailles
", a verlan
word that inverts the French derogatory term caillera
(loosely translated as "rabble", but more complex -- see the links). The Guardian
offers excellent etymological analysis of the term
, while Urban Dictionary
throws it a heavy dose of irreverence
(I promose to watch out for alligator logos next time I'm in Châtelet-Les-Halles late at night).
But back to Sarko. He's a conservative (by French standards) in Chirac's gover
nment who's positioning himself for a run at the presidency next spring. The left reviles him as much as they despise Bush -- when a pair of women from Gambia joined a political conversation I was having with a friend at a restaurant the other night, we came up with the following comparison: Bush started a war abroad, while Sarko started one at home.
I'm sure he legitimately cares about the Marseille attack, but his finger wag
ging smacks of self-righteous indignation and political posturing: The prevailing theory of the pundits is that law&order will be the big issue come election time. I don't want to trivialize what happened -- it's obviously an awful event, and for once there's something personal & human about it, a name, not just flames everywhere you turn (à la the pics I posted of last year). But it has to be seen as something of a positive sign that at least the nervous fears of "anniversary" attacks didn't turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Labels: banlieue, paris, politix