Just when you think the pages of the New York Times cannot get any more self-parodical, along comes this shiny gem by Pamela Druckerman:
WHEN I moved to France 12 years ago, it was like arriving in an unfriendly paradise. Sure, hardly anyone spoke to me. But there was national paid maternity leave and free preschool. Practically everyone seemed to agree on the need for strict gun laws, and access to birth control and abortion. Not only did the whole country have health insurance; most undocumented immigrants could get medical and dental care free. (Cruelly, their thermal bath cures weren’t covered.)
Paid! Free! No guns! Birth control! Abortion! Health insurance! And free stuff for illegals, too! Truly, a Leftist’s paradise. But wait — it gets weirder:
I also came to appreciate the way the French think, as explained by Sudhir Hazareesingh in his aptly named new book, “How the French Think.” How could I resist a country where rappers mention Rousseau, philosophy is a compulsory subject in high school and ordinary people point out the duality in everything from outfits to marriages?
As a journalist, I marveled at people’s capacity for abstract thought. When I interviewed Parisians about infidelity, many began by asking whether “fidelity” meant being faithful to your partner, or to yourself. The French believe “they have a duty to think not just for themselves but also for the rest of the world,” Mr. Hazareesingh writes.
Now, of course, everything has changed and France is ruined. It seems the French are not living up to the writer’s lofty moral ideals of free stuff for everybody, and did I mention free stuff especially having to do with consequence-free sex?
But what the headlines don’t say is that daily life in Paris, and in most French cities, is also full of pleasant multicultural experiences. My local cheese stand is owned by a Moroccan lady who’s married to a Serb. My children have public-school classmates who speak Chinese, Italian or Arabic at home. At my twins’ recent birthday, a table of kids descended from Greek, Lebanese, Portuguese and American immigrants insisted on singing “La Marseillaise.”
So when hundreds of thousands of migrants began arriving in Europe, I assumed that France would be welcoming.
It wasn’t. President François Hollande said in September that France would take in an additional 24,000 refugees over the next two years. In a national poll afterward, 70 percent of respondents said 24,000 was “sufficient” or “very sufficient,” and half said they would refuse to accept refugees in their own city.
Finally, as if to prove that it’s impossible to be “progressive” and think straight, this kicker:
I see now that France was never paradise. “Your alter country is all that your first was not,” writes the English author Julian Barnes, “commitment to it involves idealism, love, sentimentality and a certain selective vision.”
But France has also gotten worse. What once seemed like adorable grouchiness or “bleak chic” has morphed into something darker: a willingness to believe that people are walking here from Aleppo for free root canals; a sense that — despite being the world’s sixth-largest economy — France is powerless to help more.
Possibly France doesn’t need any more falafel stands. Possibly France has come to realize that millions of “migrants” flooding in means no more France. Possibly France doesn’t care what the Times thinks. Tant pis, as the French say.