Thursday, August 19, 2010

France Getting Its Groove Back?

One of my favorite quotes comes from retired Desert Storm general Norman Schwarzkopf, who ruminated that “going to war without the French is like going duck hunting without an accordion.”

If it wasn't for their cuisine and Parisian architecture, France would have lost its raison d'ĂȘtre years ago as its infamous moral relativism rendered it geopolitically irrelevant.

Recently, however, the French have managed to discover where they had misplaced their backbone after supporting the insurgent New World colonists over two hundred years ago. You'll recall from your American History lessons that France was the only country to support our revolution. For the better part of a century, however, they foundered as the doormat of nihilism. Now, not only have they enacted legislation prohibiting the identity-robbing facial scarves and burkas of Muslim women in public, but they’ve begun evicting Gypsy squatters from their fetid camps. Yesterday, two flights carrying 700 ethnic “Roma”, as Romanian Gypsies are called in politically-correct Europe, left Paris and Lyon for Bucharest.

A Culture With Few Friends (I mean the Gypsies, not the French)

In the United States, Gypsies are sometimes referred to as “Travellers" or "Irish Travellers," since many of them emigrated from Ireland during the Great Potato Famine. But wherever they live, Gypsies have the unflattering reputation as being shoplifters, pickpockets, truants, child molesters, and masters at scams, particularly home improvement fraud.

Here near north Texas, a camp of Travellers used to live in the rural fringes of Fort Worth. Nobody knew they were here until five of their young boys were killed in a spectacular traffic accident. These Gypsies had been running a string of construction rip-offs and shoplifting sprees across the Southwest. Reporters tried to learn more about their community, but were confounded by the doubletalk or outright silence from Travellers who claimed nothing was wrong with their lifestyle.

Granted, in North America, it's hard to tell Gypsies from ordinary folk. Aside from their bad grammar and limited education - pardon my bluntness - they often pass for typical Texas rednecks with more money than sense. They drive ludicrously fancy pickup trucks and new luxury cars, wear far too much bling, and clothes that seem just a little too stylish.

They're a far cry from their ancestral brethren in France, who have lived for years in the squalor of approximately 300 unauthorized encampments infested with vermin and rife with communicable illnesses. They're reputed to endorse adolescent marriage, tolerate sexual abuse, and perpetrate various crimes and scams such as prostitution to maintain what appears to be a meager existence. Their "repatriation," as the French government calls it, has met with cries of xenophobia (apparently the Europeans don't like the word "racism") from liberals and the Romanian government, which apparently has no desire to welcome their fellow countrymen back home.

Drawing Lines In The Sand (On the French Riviera)

Although according to European Union laws the Roma may have originally entered France legally as tourists, they never qualified for nor obtained work visas which would have authorized their stay in France. Roma adults claim the work permits have been difficult to obtain, but fail to explain why that should excuse their stay in France.

Sound familiar?

While numerous and significant differences exist between the Roma in France and illegal Hispanics in the United States, the basic problem appears the same: what to do with people unauthorized to be in your country?

It remains to be seen whether France will repatriate all of the estimated 12,000 Roma living there without permission. Some government critics say it's all a simple political stunt to appease Frenchmen reeling from the Great Recession. Others say that it's a modern expression of the age-old European discrimination against Gypsies, the perpetual scapegoats for legions of maladies.

What seems particularly interesting, however, is that after years of blithely clucking its disapproval at American hegemony, the French government has chosen this time and this people group to fly - literally - in the face of liberal social policy. A decision taken on the heels of banning burkas in public. This, the country which refused to allow American jets to clip French airspace while flying sorties to the Middle East, prompting General Schwarzkopf's droll pronouncement.

Maybe history indeed is more cyclical than we give it credit for being.

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