Terrorists attacked and killed more than 130 Parisians, but there are many ordinary Frenchmen who aren’t blaming the attackers and are pointing the finger at their own government.
“They’re stupid, but they aren’t evil,” says Parisian woman who works in 11th arrondissement.
But they aren’t angry, at least not at the perpetrators. “They’re stupid, but they aren’t evil,” their friend Sabrina, an administrative worker in one of the theaters in the 11th arrondissement, said. “They are victims of a system that excluded them from society, that’s why they felt this doesn’t belong to them and they could attack. There are those who live here in alienation, and we are all to blame for this alienation.”
Ten months after the previous wave of terror in Paris that hit the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher kosher supermarket, one might assume that residents would feel a sense of continuity, but that didn’t seem to be the case. “Then they harmed journalists and Jews, those were defined targets,” said one of the young people who had come to the square. “Now it was an attack with no objective, anyone could have been hurt.”
No one wanted to talk about Islamists or the Islamic State, even after it took responsibility for the attacks and French President Francois Hollande announced that the group was behind them. “Daesh is so dangerous to France,” said Johann Crispel, a business student at a college near one of the restaurants that was attacked, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State and wrinkling his nose as he enunciated it. “Perhaps it’s correct to bomb them in the name of democracy and freedom, but it brought the war in Syria to us in France. I don’t think it’s worth it.”
It was hard to find anyone at this gathering who would say a bad word about the attackers, and expressions of patriotism were restrained. Perhaps it should be no surprise in this part of town. Most residents of the 11th arrondissement are what the French call “bobo,” bohemian and bourgeois, middle-class academics in their 30s and 40s with clearly leftist leanings. It’s a tolerant area, where migrants and minorities feel safe walking around. Among those who had assembled were several mixed-race couples. Now the restaurants and bars that they frequent every night were attacked and some of their friends were killed and wounded, and they were having a hard time reconciling this with their worldview.
Some of these young intellectuals will be mugged by reality and wake up to the truth. It happened here after 9/11. PJ Media’s Roger L. Simon was one such leftist whose eyes were opened on 9/11. Christopher Hitchens was another.
But you sense something even more discouraging: a loss of energy in defending their heritage.
A woman standing outside the La Carillon bar, one of the establishments targeted, started softly singing “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, but no one joined her, in stark contrast to the powerful singing heard Friday night when the crowd was evacuated from the Stade de France Friday night after the suicide bombings outside it.
Almost no one who had gathered near the sites of the attacks held flags. Jean Marc Montaine, an older man who was carrying the Tricolore, felt unwanted and distanced himself from the others. He was dismissive of the bleeding hearts, however. After the three days of national mourning, he said, “There will be plenty of flags here.”
That may be. But the very people that you would expect to step forward and defend French civilization have apparently given up. They can justify evil based on nothing more than a vague sense that French society has let the terrorists down in some way. They are so paralyzed with self-doubt that they can’t summon the courage or the energy to fight back.
In 1940, Hitler was able to literally walk through the French army because the nation had been so traumatized by the horror of World War I that they had lost the psychic energy to protect themselves.
You get the same feeling of hopelessness from many Frenchmen today.