Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Unfortunate proposals put the lie to the notion that all French politicians, and all French people, are liberal

Or effete liberals or cheese eating wimps, whatever rancid stereotype the right wants to use at any particular moment. The article is France Unveils National Identity Plans from the BBC.

"Newcomers to France will be made to sign a declaration of values as part of a new campaign to define national identity, France's Prime Minister says.


Other measures include the flying of the French flag and the singing of the national anthem - La Marseilleise - at schools, to promote patriotism.


"The emphasis will be put on the respect for the values of the republic… notably the principle of equality between men and women… and the level of knowledge of the French language," said Mr Fillon.


Under the scheme, newly arrived immigrants will have to undertake classes in French and gender equality, ...


Other proposals include keeping a copy of France's 1789 declaration of rights in every classroom and introducing a young citizens' book in which students can record progress in their instruction in civic duties.


Many of the proposals were put forward by French Immigration Minister Eric Besson.

Monday's announcement came a week after Mr Besson refused to grant citizenship to a foreign national on the grounds that he forced his wife to wear the full Islamic veil.

Late last month a French parliamentary committee recommended a ban on women wearing Islamic face veils in hospitals, schools, government offices and on public transport.

It also recommended that anyone showing visible signs of "radical religious practice" should be refused residence cards and citizenship"

Although the article says that Sarkozy is distancing himself from the findings, he's still the President, has power over the Prime Minister and the immigration minister, and is on the right himself, famously so.

The point is that these are the same sorts of policies that right wingers in the United States want to impose on immigrants here although the particular religious bias isn't present. The odd imposition of civic values that are liberal on folks in a right wing manner is another point in common, with the Rights of Man being one of the foundational documents for 19th and 20th century European liberalism. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, with guarantees of freedom, are fully appropriated by folks who are pretty anti-freedom on a regular basis in this country, most recently by Sarah Palin in her Tea Party speech when she used the sacredness of the Constitution to argue that it shouldn't apply to terrorists. It's a strange tradition, both here and in Europe, but the difference is that in Europe there are actual Fascist traditions that oppose the Right of Man outright, and the Sarkozy regime isn't going that far. In the U.S. a conservative movement openly contemptuous of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution never developed so all the nuts are basically forced to appeal to it even if they don't really believe in what it actually stands for. Makes you wonder who the real 'enemy' is.

Politics are always contests between various ideologies, a kind of push and pull over various strands of beliefs manifested through parties and figures who correspond imperfectly to the will of citizens as manifested through them. It's no different in France than in the United States.

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