THE SPINE AUGUST 18, 2010
“Les guichets du Louvre” is a French film released in 1974 in America as “Black Thursday.” I recall every scene: they were withering, all of them. The movie takes place within one 24 hour period on July 16, 1942 when 9,000 French policemen rounded up 14,000 Jews (including 4,500 children) in the 4th arrondisement of Paris and transported them to the Velodrome d’Hiver on their way to the death camps.
A shudder reawakened my memory of the film when I read in the papers—yes, mostly I still read the papers—of President Sarkozy’s determination to rid France of its criminal gypsies and send them “back” to Romania and Bulgaria. I am stunned that his moves and intentions have met with so little attention. I know, I know that the analogy with the Nazis and Vichy is not exact. It may even be that many, even most of these migrants are illegal in their French presence. I concede that most of them may steal. Still, it is an index of how atrophied our moral nerves have become that this forced transport of people is going on without more than a wan protest from SOS-Racisme, the old watch guard of France.
There are 15,000 roma in France (plus an unknown but lesser number of itinerant Irish “travelers” who are in a similar predicament.) They are either potential targets of the gendarmerie or already targets. Today brought the latest news that 700 gypsies are being put on three planes to their “home” countries. I don’t know how many newspapers in the U.S. reported this fact. But, of the six English language British papers I read in Spain, only the Daily Telegraph informed its readers of these expulsions.
But this harassment of the gypsies is only a substitute for the real ethnic and racial dilemma facing the French people. And it is real. John Vinocur, the brilliant and brave international Herald Tribune journalist whose column “politicus” does not appear on the Times op-ed page (its space being reserved for the oh so correct pabulum that has so damaged our culture’s judgement) published yesterday an essay at once sad, balanced and wise. He concedes (how could one but concede?) that France and most of its Western European neighbors must have been in a daze when they permitted Muslim and black Africans to fill the void created by their own population declines.
Many of these immigrants came to work. Many did not, believing they could live in better circumstances in Europe than “at home” even without working. (Social democracy, more or less, guaranteed that.) Some, and not a small number, came because they were more at liberty to practice their draconian forms of Islam in Europe than, say, in Algeria. I’ve always thought it curious that peoples who fought for their independence against the colonials would try to find fulfillment (or whatever) in the countries whose rule they had overthrown. I never thought Sir John Seeley’s crack that “Britain obtained its empire in a fit of absence of mind” was correct. But I sure think the comment apt for Europe and its post-war immigrants and immigrant policy.
Vinocur makes the chastening observation that the indigenous fear of immigrant culture in violence and crime, with indifference to work and disdain for the rules of citizenship is not simply a characteristic of the political right. The left, too, has taken up the phobic clarion calls, and the unwanted immigrant may in the end be the cause of the erosion of the welfare state. This is happening in Holland and in the Scandinavian countries. I can also testify that socialist Spain is not immune to these tendencies, not at all.
Now, as Vinocur also indicates with France as his prime backdrop, Europe... has never gone through the systematic confidence-building and psychological investment in its newcomers that affirmative action would signify.
At the same time, out of comfort and a habit of buying off trouble, they have also taken a pass on their nations’ requirements for integration -and their civilizations’ demands for respect- that a consistent policy of zero tolerance in law enforcement could demonstrate.
I think the issue is more “their civilizations’ demands for respect,” tangibly in language and culture and rules of family and individual behavior, than in “zero tolerance in law enforcement.”
As Vinocur writes, “this points to the essence (and an explanation) of Europe’s distress in relation to its Muslim immigrants."
I believe that it will get uglier on both sides before Europe can experience social peace.