23 February, 2010

National Identity in France I

Turn on French television and you would never believe that anyone lives here outside of white French men and women. Not a single person of diversity has led a discussion, given the weather, given the news or led a game show. The only people of color you see are on Law and Order, which of course is translated into French, or the other law and order spin-offs. They show up on soccer teams, and became famous when they helped the French win the European cup in 2000. Some of the more popular singers are also from minorities. Even people appearing on game shows or the infamous L'Amour show where couples are expected to know each other's habits, etc. are primarily white. Maybe twice in seven weeks a couple of color have appeared.  So entertainment and sports have diverse people, but not mainstream television.

According to Lucy Wadham, the French don't recognize that there is a problem with minorities here, because everyone who comes here to live becomes French. This means he or she speaks perfect French or learns to speak perfect French and accepts French values hook, line and sinker. As one politician said just last week, if they don't accept our values, they shouldn't live here. This is a bit difficult to imagine coming from the United States where many people speak Spanish and still cling to their traditional ways, even after a couple of generations  and even if it means they can never get a decent job with a mainstream company or work for the U.S. government.

This is why the French have forbidden Muslim woman to wear a burqas. She can wear it, but she can't go to school, use the Metro or receive any of the benefits other French women enjoy. France, however, is the biggest Muslim nation in Europe with five million Muslims and has the second biggest Muslim mosque in Europe, which was built after the first World War and completed  in 1926.

France is secular, one of the things De Gaulle insisted on when reconstructing France after World War II. Yes, the revolution started the process of secularization, but De Gaulle pushed it farther reducing  the power of the Catholic church, and making the central government the most important institution in French life. The government controls what is being taught in the schools, has control of the police in all parts of France. It forced the French who spoke Breton, Basque  and other languages to either give them up or reduce their importance. French children learn French in the schools and all other French languages were done away with. They learn French values in the school as if it were any other subject. Why? To cultivate a French identity that the French can cling to and feel proud of.  It doesn't mean that the French are anti-religious, but they do not tolerate religions interfering in the business of government. Religion is personal and should be kept that way. This means all religions including Islam.

France is struggling with their sense of identity, with the minorities who are coming into France and trying to change their values. What is it to be French? This will be continued in a following blog.


  1. Hello,
    Nicely written.
    Our company is organizing a meet for employees and shareholders around that area. Do you, by any chance, know anything about car rentals in the area and can you please share some info it?Thank you.


  2. Thank you for your compliment.The sites are:




  3. If you are traveling through France then a car is good, but in Paris, parking is impossible and the prices for parking are astronomical. So good luck. If you are American, keep in mind that the euro is worth $1.36. Enjoy!