Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sticking it to The Man?

I don't pretend to be an expert on French politics by any means, but during my 11 years in France, I have had the chance to see a few elections come and go.  And what I've noticed is that most times is that each election, there is just a flip flop between the winning and losing parties.  ie the voters get disenchanted with the current president and fall for all the promises of the opposing party.  And then they are disappointed with the new president's performance, so the next time around, they vote the other party back in. 

This time however, it seems the general population has had enough of the two main parties, and the few people who did turn out to vote voted for the Front National as a measure of protest, to show their unhappiness with the current state of French politics. 

My FIL was here a few days this week to deliver our office & balcony furniture that he had lovingly handmade, so I don't want to slag him off too much, but a discussion we had about how their town (and whole department) voted overwhelmingly for the FN has really gotten my goat.  Given where they live, it's not really a surprise, but it's more-so his justification for it that has gotten my riled up.

In his mind (and the mind of many of my customers with whom I've also had this discussion), voting for the FN was the only way to manifest his unhappiness with the current situation.  I counter-argued that this wasn't the first round of elections, this was an actual election and they just voted a whole bunch of FN politicians into power.  Of course this was for the EU parliament representation and not a pure France election, but it is exceedingly frustrating for me that they cannot seem to understand how their actions can potentially affect France long-term.   The FN is for protectionism, anti-EU, anti-Euro, etc, and history has shown that isolating oneself from the world generally does not improve the economic situation of one's country.  Just take a look at Marine LePen's victory speech:  "The sovereign people have proclaimed that they want to take back the reigns of their destiny into their hands. Our people demand one type of politics: politics of the French, for the French, with the French. They no longer want to be directed from outside."

Granted, as I mentioned the other day in my movie post, there is a growing anti-foreigner sentiment in France and across Europe, but I do think the general French population is just so tired of political parties not doing much of anything that they don't really believe any changes will come about even if the FN was in power.  But that way of thinking still makes me angry.  If you're not happy with the powers-to-be, get out and do something about it or at least vote for one of the other parties that are out there (of which there are many). If anything, now's the time for those parties to really make a push for popularity.  But don't vote for the radical right-wing party just to "stick it to the government", because in the end, you're just sticking it to yourself.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The "right kind" of foreigner

This past Sunday, I went to see "Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu?" with two friends.  If you haven't seen any trailers for it, the basic storyline is about a good Catholic (white) French family who very unhappily ends up with four "foreign" son-in-laws.  It's not something I would normally see, but both my friend's in-laws and my in-laws raved about it (and my in-laws rarely rave about anything besides the anti-gay marriage protests - maybe that should have been my clue??), so I decided "Why not?"

I'm no movie critic, and these are just my thoughts on the film, but I spent most of the movie feeling fairly uncomfortable with the audience's reaction.  The entire 90 minutes were basically just one racist joke after another, under the guise of "humor", and the audience's constant reactions to them really kind of rubbed me the wrong way.  I'm having a hard time putting it in words, but it was like they weren't laughing because the film was funny, but because they really thought the racist jokes were funny and like it was validating their opinions.  It just seemed so telling of the state of France today, with the anti-immigrant sentiments and so many people voting for extreme right candidates.  Like one of the worst things that could happen to a good français de souche family is having your children marry non-white spouses.

And speaking of the "foreign" son-in-laws - three of whom were actually all born in France in the film, so they were technically French I'd like to point out - they totally played up the stereotypes for their origins.  The Arabic guy with the hot temper and who fights with the Jewish guy, the Chinese guy who just smiles and sucks up to everyone.  It's like - why would you even agree to play that role?  Maybe the way the script was written and the way it actually ended up weren't what they expected?   Or maybe I'm just sensitive to it because the comments I get as a white, middle-class American strike me as so unfair and hypocritical - ie I am an "acceptable" type of foreigner and I "don't count" when people are making racists or derogatory comments about immigration in France.  I don't know.  It's been a couple of days since I've seen the film and it's still sort of niggling at me.  Maybe I'm just overreacting because the foreigner card is a hot button topic for me, and it's not really a big deal.  Has anyone else seen the film?