Eric Besson, France’s Minister of Immigration, said in an interview yesterday that he wants French people to be proud of their country and their nationality. He wants young people to sing La Marseillaise at least once per year and he wants adults to take civic instruction classes. He’s going to conduct a two month national debate on what it means to be French today and will present his findings in January. This is part of Sarkozy’s plan to bring back “La Douce France” and to increase patriotism and nationalism because he also believes that the French are not patriotic enough.
Sarkozy always seems to bring up these questions of national identity before elections though, so some people think it’s just a ploy to get more votes for the conservative UMP party from the Front National (racist/anti-immigration party) supporters. La Douce France usually refers to the early part of the 20th century when the majority of French people lived in the countryside, and before France had a large immigrant population (especially of Muslims) and before globalization added English words to the French language. But modern France is nothing like that. Three times as many people live in cities than in the countryside in the 21st century. There are more than 5 million Muslims (more than any other Western European country). And French has definitely borrowed a lot of English words. How many “French” words end in -ing nowadays?
I see nothing wrong with patriotism as long as its sincere and it’s not a disguise for racism or intolerance. You can love your country and be proud of your nationality and/or government. I don’t necessarily like when people take it to the extreme though and plaster their houses or cars or clothes with flags. And I especially do not like when people define nationalities based on their racist ideals (i.e. all Americans must be white Christians who speak English as a native language).
But I also see nothing wrong with a lack of a patriotism. It’s fine to not love your country, especially the one to which you belong by birth, because you never had a choice regarding your nationality. Just because you were born in a certain place doesn’t mean you have to love it. If I had had a choice, I would have loved to have been born with two nationalities. But I wasn’t. And now I’m working towards gaining French citizenship by naturalization, but does that make me any less patriotic concerning France? I have equal feelings for the US and France (though I suppose it leans a little more toward France at the moment because of health care…) and I really can’t picture myself ever choosing one over the other.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing more French flags flown (especially on July 14) and hearing La Marseillaise at more than just football matches. I’m just afraid that the UMP is starting this “debate” for ulterior motives because they’ve been getting harsher on immigration (evacuating Calais and sending war refugees back to Afghanistan) and Muslim garments (the burka “runs counter to national values”). Or perhaps I’m just letting my personal feelings for Sarkozy and his huge ego and Besson and his selfish crassness cloud my judgment. Nevertheless, I am a liberal through and through and slightly for socialism in certain cases, which is not a bad thing even if American conservatives compare it to Nazi Germany (because they really are that stupid. Talking about you, Glenn Beck.)
Luckily Besson doesn’t have power to change rules on gaining nationality through naturalization, or I might really have to sing La Marseillaise to a fonctionnaire to prove my worth. That’s Brice Hortefeux’s job (Minister of Interior) and considering that he’s just as loyal to Sarkozy – he’s even godfather to one of his sons – and just as prone to making possibly racist remarks against immigrants, I’m a little worried. Or perhaps I’m just annoyed with Western politicians in general because they’re all rich white guys with questionable values and morals?
♫ Allons enfants de la Patrie ! Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie, l’étendard sanglant est levé,
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !
Aux armes, citoyens, formez vos bataillons, marchons, marchons !
Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons !