Swans Commentary » swans.com December 17, 2012  



Perspectives: A Review of 2012


France 2012


by Marie Rennard





(Swans - December 17, 2012)   French author and singer Mathias Malzieu wrote at the beginning of his wonderful novel La mécanique du Cœur, "I was born on the coldest day of the world." So was I. It was exactly half a century ago, and the sea had frozen in Marseille. My grandmother told me that on her way to the hospital to see me, she was so cold that it made her cry, and her tears would freeze on her cheeks. I don't know whether it is true or if it is one of those exaggerations people from the south of France are famous for. What is sure is that the sea never froze again in the past 50 years. Our winters are now so warm that we hardly ever see snow in towns, and many ski stations only open a couple of months a year, whereas they kept open from December to April when I was twenty. On lucky days, the snow was so high on the road that we could sledge to school. I guess not so many kids can say this nowadays.

2012 was supposed to be, according to some alarmists, the last year of the world. Let's be honest, we still have not reached the deadline they announced, and there's still a fortnight to remember about the marking year events. Undoubtedly, for the French people, the great event was the presidential election. "Sarko go home" was the credo. We got it. The dwarf is gone -- though the victory was not as large as we hoped.

The week before the second turn of the election, I was in a hospital. I had agreed with my surgeon he would let me out before the D-Day so that I could vote. He kept his promise. I went back home just in time to watch on TV Sarkozy's last show in Toulon. His Christian xenophobic speech made me so angry that my sons, fearing the effects of anger on my health, tried several times to turn off the TV and send me to bed. "This guy has driven you crazy for five years, don't you think you'd better concentrate on something else? He'll be gone in a couple of days."

Indeed he was. François Hollande won the election -- and the hope for humanity rose again. We were finished with dividing the workers and the unemployed, the rich and the poor, the Christians and the Muslims; things would get better. Hollande had won those elections on two bases. First, the "get rid of sarko" necessity, and second, a human vision of governing. Small things in appearance, but that meant a lot -- like marriage for gay people, a highly symbolic topic after five years of making France "the elder daughter of the Catholic church" again, two hundred years after she had finally become laïc and republican.

These hopes did not last. A few weeks ago, about this same topic, Hollande announced it was no longer a priority, before adding that mayors would anyway be allowed to decide according to their "moral convictions." "Religious convictions" would have been more honest. 2012, finally, will have been what alarmists told it would be. The end of a world. The year when republicans lost their hopes of seeing religious matters confined to churches. The year when the divisions between the rich and the poor, the workers and the unemployed, the Christians and the Muslims, the sensed and the fools have come to maturation -- and in spite of the warmth, 2012 may be one of the coldest years of our country in the hearts of those who were hoping a change of government would lead to a change in behaviors and the end of divisions. The year when secularism is threatened by the claims of religious extremist minorities who have taken their own wars at the heart of the republican decisional process. The year when hatred has come back between French citizens who do not want to understand that what they share is more important than what divides them.


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Published December 17, 2012