Monday, November 30, 2009

L'identité nationale

"Le débat de l'identité nationale" is all the rage right now in France. And by that, I mean the meta-discussion of whether France should even be having the debate over their national identity is all the rage in the French media right now. Perhaps the lede of the Times article on the subject said it best: 

PARIS — France, a nation endlessly fascinated with itself since at least as far back as the Gauls, is again engaged in a bizarre and deeply political debate over its identity.

There was a poll done this weekend which came up with some interesting results. More than 2/3's of the French population (in the range of 72%) think that this is a ploy by President Sarkozy and the UMP (the center-right party) to drum up support for next March's regional elections. This is important because out of the 22 régions in France, only two are controlled by the right (and one of them is Corsica--oh, Corse, you aren't really French). The rest are controlled by the left, notably the PS, Partie Socialiste.

However, 57% of the population, meaning at least 15% of the people that think this is a UMP ploy, STILL think having a national identity debate is a good idea. Oh, the French. The intricacies of their culture make me laugh. Until I start thinking about it, and realize how alike our cultures are. The roots of the national identity debate are a changing demographic and waves of immigration. If we were to have a similar debate be proposed in the United States, the results of such a poll might not look so different. Of course, because of different definitions of the words "equality" and "liberty," the poll results would probably look quite a bit different when broken down by race, class, state, gender. The French don't have those distinctions (legally speaking). They only have "les citoyens" and "les étrangers."

Which is fine. Although, as a result of that very black-and-white distinction, the national identity debate makes even less sense to me. But then again, I am not française. I am a white, female, Roman Catholic(ish), California/New York, city-dweller, liberal thinking American. So I just don't understand.

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