Where does France stand on Bastille Day?
France is celebrating its national day — Bastille Day — today. Memories of the protests and riots after the shooting of 17-year-old Nahel M. are still fresh, President Macron has cancelled a TV interview that had been announced for the occasion and is playing host to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the latter’s two-day visit to France. Commentators see little cause to celebrate.
Macron backtracking in silence
Le Figaro criticises the president for not making a public address:
“This is a worrying sign for a country incapable of celebrating this day with dignity, for a nation forced to flee from its own history. ... Given that this is such a pivotal event — undoubtedly the most unsettling of the year — one can only wonder at the silence of the president. Especially since he is otherwise so loquacious. And even more worrying is that the words that in spite of everything break through the silence do not bode well. ... ‘Man is the one who goes forward in the fog’, wrote Kundera; the problem is that Emmanuel Macron is going backwards in the fog of time.”
Rioters without a cause
Corriere del Ticino predicts that the worst is over now:
“The wave of violence in France has subsided, also thanks to the 45,000 police officers that President Emmanuel Macron kept on duty even after the unrest peaked. It was necessary to wait for this 14 July, the bank holidays, to declare the danger banished. ... Today, the uprising no longer has the critical mass to turn into something worse. One can say that it was a huge explosion of violence for its own sake. Unlike the citizens who took to the streets between January and March this year against the pension reform, this time the rioters had no political demands. They simply wanted to destroy, loot and set cars on fire.”
Meeting with Modi shows contempt and cynicism
In an open letter published in Libération, Franco-Indian writer Shumona Sinha is outraged that Macron is hosting India’s prime minister today of all days:
“For years we have been drawing the attention of journalists, academics, political scientists, writers and French, Indian and French-Indian intellectuals to the political crimes of Narendra Modi and his political party, his militia and his supporters. Yet you make a mockery of our warnings. ... One wonders whether you truly understand and respect democracy. Such contempt, such cynicism, such denial and such cruelty one would expect only from autocratic rulers. ... The 14th of July is an important symbol — sullying it is unworthy.”