Friday, July 15, 2016

Horror in France, Again

Nice. One of my favorite cities. La Promenade des Anglais. One of my favorite places. The truck was stopped and the attacker killed in front of the Hôtel Westminster, where I stayed some years ago. People fled down familiar streets. More than 80 killed, hundreds injured. France in mourning yet again, on Bastille Day, just hours after President Hollande announced an impending end to the state of emergency (now renewed for 3 months): "The police are tired," he said. Once again, a perfectly targeted attack, designed to inflict maximum ... despair.

Damage is not the point of these horrors, although there is damage enough, carnage enough, blood enough. The point is to induce desperation and trigger an emotional, irrational, disproportionate, and ill-targeted response. And I fear that the enemy is on the point of achieving its goal.

It is becoming increasingly likely that Marine Le Pen will be elected next year. The government seems helpless, and little by little minds are being prepared to accept an authoritarian xenophobic response as the only conceivable next step.

Not that a Le Pen government would be any less helpless, and not that the authoritarian manner will lessen the threat--au contraire. But for too many people, I fear, it will feel like "doing something rather than nothing"--and in these circumstances it is all too human to want to do something. We saw this in the US after 9/11.

I hope we do not see a repeat in France, but I am no longer as convinced as I once was that France will be saved from catastrophe by its two-round voting system. Fear is gaining the upper hand. This is what is truly terrifying.