Paul Cruce, an American now attending school in Paris to become a baker (great idea!), has written me some fascinating email about his surprising experiences over there in the midst of all the conflagrations:
What I have found to be far more common is a real warmth for the U.S. and I have found it in surprising and unexpected ways. Examples:
* October a year ago I was here for a week. I had been invited to a Hallowe’en dinner party prepared by a couple I know, both of whom are chefs. During the dinner, I was asked by another guest if I supported Bush or Kerry. With a smile, I quickly and firmly replied “President Bush.” To my surprise, the entire table – about 30 people altogether – burst out in applause. One woman said, “The U.S. did the right thing in Iraq. Chirac is on Saddam’s payroll. That’s the only reason our government has opposed yours there,” and all the other heads at the table nodded in agreement. This group included some people whom I know usually vote for the Socialist Party rather than Chirac’s UMP.
* This past May while in Paris preparing for my move here, a woman whom I did not know approached me and asked if I am an American. (It both amazes and frustrates me that they know I am an American before I even open my mouth! I WANT to blend in.) When I replied in the affirmative, she said: “I apologize for our government. We don’t hate Americans! We love you! God bless President Bush!”
* Last week before the rioting began, I found myself in a conversation with a Frenchman in the Starbucks between Forum des Halles and (the architecturally hideous) Centre Georges Pompidou. He said, “Don’t believe what the TV and the newspapers say about the French hating Americans. The TV and the newspapers hate Americans and our government is not your friend, but WE are your friends. You did the right thing in Iraq.”
Three examples do not necessarily tell the whole story, but the fact that all three of these things happened spontaneously and most unexpectedly, when combined with my total experience in France, tell me that the notorious French anti-Americanism is centered in the incestuous mindset of the bureaucrats who all came out of the same school and in the media, who here, just as in the U.S., have a symbiotic relationship with the political left.
He also writes this about the current situation:
The government has quietly put a lot of AK-47-toting soldiers on patrol in Paris, especially around key public transportation points and at the monuments and high-traffic areas such as Forum des Halles. I think there are three reasons for this – 1) to reassure the public – and the tourists, 2) to take some pressure off the Police Nationale, who have been deployed in greater numbers to the north-eastern suburbs and 3) to send a message to would be trouble-makers.
The French have the reputation of being wimps, but in my experience, when they crack down, they crack down HARD. For one example, ChIRAQ’s crony in the OFF scandal, Merimee, was quickly imprisoned in la Conciergerie which has the reputation of being one of the toughest prisons in France, despite its scenic location by la Seine and adjacent to the gothic stained glass splendor of la Sainte-Chapelle.
The laws here in France are very different than in the U.S. Despite the Napoléanic Code revisions, French law is still rooted in Roman law. That means you are guilty until YOU can prove yourself innocent. The judges act as something of a grand jury with sentencing powers and can decide whether or not you get a jury trial. Thus the muslims who were arrested last Thursday night in Clichy-sous-Bois went to prison on Monday! None of that Miranda merde here!
UPDATE: More interesting views on the French situation at Instapundit.
FROM the BBC on the escalating situation: Wednesday night’s violence erupted in 10 areas across the Paris department of Seine-Saint-Denis, home to poor, largely immigrant communities with high levels of unemployment.
Locals officials said rioters set fire to 177 vehicles across the region. In the flashpoint town of Aulnay-sous-Bois, youths set fire to a car showroom and damaged two primary schools, a post office and a shopping centre
Two live rounds were fired in the town of La Corneueve, and fire fighters in Saint-Denis and Noisy-le-Sec were also shot at, a senior local official said.