Paris is Burning
This photo of a forlorn-looking Eiffel Tower was taken by me, your intrepid Foreign Correspondent, at midnight on New Year’s Eve to document the fact that THERE WERE NO FIREWORKS. Little did I know, however, that all the action was happening out in les banlieues of Paris and beyond, where Champagne and canapés have been replaced by the annual torching of cars to ring in the New Year.
None of this occurred in the city center, which was entirely populated by Italians, Japanese, thousands of troops in full riot gear who flinched at every broken bottle, and me and my fabulous stylist cousin. This left the inhabitants of les banlieues free to burn 1,147 cars, 30 percent more than New Year’s Eve 2008.
France began its long and illustrious history of protest and revolt in the late 1700s; and with the notable exception of the early 1940s, when it was di rigeur to roll over like a well-trained pup, it continues to this day with every sit-in, protest march and earnest chant that occurs in every city, town and quaint hamlet in the Republic on an almost weekly basis. Even in our sleepy city on the Mediterranean, I’ve been tear-gassed on the way to the market more times than I care to recall.
So it amuses me that Sarko & Co. are so flummoxed by the burning of cars in les banlieues by those whom France would rather forget. Really, it’s the safest form of protest they have available to them. Sarko has said that those who burn cars will have their licenses taken away until the cars’ owners are paid back in full; this is a laughable punishment, seeing as how they would be beaten senseless by racist cops itching for a fight if they held a more organized, less firey protest in the city center.
However, nothing will stop the burning until French Muslims, most of whom have been born and raised here, are afforded the same opportunities as the rest of the population. Non-Muslim French see the welfare state that has become the French Republic as their divine right; but a Muslim kid, who’s Frencher than a baguette but with skin like cafe au lait, wants a job and a roof over his head, and it’s a national tragedy.