Monday, July 15, 2013

Bastille Day and before

I've been out late for the past three nights (Friday through Sunday) my time being preoccupied by my Friday visit to Versailles, nightly bar-hopping and Bastille Day.
The French national holiday was an interesting experience. No backyard barbeques but plenty of picnics in the park and (as is the holiday custom here) the shutdown of virtually all commerce (except the neighborhood boulangerie, which took off Friday and Saturday instead).
Most strangely of all, perhaps, the crowds at the morning military parade along the Champs-Elysee and the evening fireworks spectacle at Trocadero (the two defining events of the holiday) were heavily populated by curious foreign tourists (like moi).
Also, unlike the custom in the United States, the French members of the crowd did little in the way of visible displays of patriotism, waving French flags or even chanting "France, France." Some chanting in support of the various military divisions (French, Belgian and German) was evident, but failed to impress as much as the raucous at the appearance of President Francoise Hollande: unlike in the US it seems, disapproval of tepid economic policy can justify (or enable) genuine disrespect. One could argue for the weakened strength of the French presidency (in the fifth democratic republic to succeed the French revolution), as an institution, compared with that of the United States, though I am tempted to also assign a role to France's more boisterous political culture (though might not the general political instability simply be an outgrowth of that factor?)
Anyway, at the same time-waiting two hours together before the parade and five hours before the fireworks show (both necessitated by the need to reserve a spot)-both enabled for greater bonding with pps from the Travel-study group, shy as I can be.
I also, shortly before heading over to the Champ du Mars, heard about the George Zimmerman's acquittal via the hotel lobby's TV screen.
Let me say that, regardless of who started fighting whom, the fact remains that George Zimmermann shot and killed Trayvon Martin after having stalked him solely based on rudimentary suspicion (i.e. "looking" like the majority of folk who end up in prison). According to the state of Florida's Stand Your Ground Laws, killing in the name of self-defense is entitled without a traditional "obligation to retreat" (sorry for the Wikipedia ): however, it is completely unclear as to whether Zimmermann (in shooting) or Martin (in fighting Zimmermann) was engaging in self-defense. It seems most probable that Zimmermann's pursuit of Martin prior to the police dispatch (and against common sense) set off the conundrum. (perhaps provoking Martin to fight) The taking of Martin's life rests ultimately on Zimmermann's shoulders at the very least necessitating a conviction for manslaughter.
All in all, looking at America from afar, the very controversy of the crime reflects how much of an issue race remains (regardless of proposed solutions) for my homeland.

Au Revoir and A Bientot.

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