Les Gilets Jaunes–part 2

Hi from Paris,

Many of you have written to me to make sure I am okay as the tv reports showed a Paris out of control and burning.  I am fine.  The protests, the demonstrations and rioting have been in the centre of Paris where tourist attractions are and the wealthiest streets are.  It has affected my ability to travel around Paris.  Yesterday, we were warned ahead of time that forty metro stations would be closed.  And, as a caution, all tourists sites were closed, all museums closed and the department stores on the Grands Boulevards were closed.

What started as a protest against a tax on diesel fuel has now escalated to a full-blown rage at the cost of living in France, hatred of President Macron as a president of only the rich and a general overflowing of suppressed anger at the things the average French person cannot control

I have friends on both sides.  A number of my french friends are disgusted with the Gillets Jaunes.  They feel they do not appreciate all the services that they do get for ‘free’. The French pay one of the highest taxes in Europe and those taxes are what support the French Healthcare System which is remarkable, maintenance of roads and highways–they are always up to date, and many days and evenings during the year when the average person can go to museums and monuments for free.

I also have friends who support the Gilets Jaunes.  They also believe that this protest has been hijacked by the hooligans and the far-right as well as the infamous ‘black bloc’.  Many believe that the Gilets Jaunes want a peaceful protest but as one french worker said, “if we protest peacefully, we get ignored.  If there is violence, they hear us and things change.” (that is not an exact quote).

For those of you who want to read a lot more detail, I’ve included articles from the NYTimes, The guardian and France24.

https://www.france24.com/en/20181208-live-hundreds-detained-paris-france-braces-new-anti-macron-riots

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/08/paris-police-flood-streets-gilets-jaunes?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0d1YXJkaWFuVG9kYXlVS19XZWVrZW5kLTE4MTIwOQ%3D%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&CMP=GTUK_email

No one knows what will happen next.  Macron is supposed to talk to the country early this coming week.  Is he going to stick to his revolutionary plan or will he have listened and be willing to work with the French?  And interesting sideline is the comparison to the 1968 student riots that brought Paris to a complete standstill.   “In an interview with the Observer, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of the leaders of the May 1968 student riots and one of Macron’s friends and advisers, said the president and the government needed a “complete reset …and a tax revolution” to answer protesters’ demands.”

Thank you all for your concern,

A bientôt,

Sara

 

All my news apps

Sitting in my wonderful apartment in Paris, I felt very far away from the 2016 Presidential Election and the “peaceful exchange” of power during December and January.  I was sure that being back in the United States would make it more real, less dream-like.  Almost instinctively, I didn’t watch any news on TV except the PBS News Hour.  I had come to really appreciate the news stations in Europe that just report the news without opinions or jeering or humiliation – on either side.  It was refreshing, allowing me to make up my own mind.  The PBS News Hour is much like that.  Reporting the news and an expansion on the important stories during the hour.

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Still, I had news apps set to send me alerts of breaking news.  I had called myself a ‘news junkie’ before I left for Paris.  Now I just wanted to stay on top of the news, know what’s going on.  Last night’s news had me looking at Trump’s hair for more than 2 minutes—I think his wig, or whatever it is that he wears, had slipped and made a big ball on the left side of his head–while the announcers reported on his first full day in office.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

This morning, I woke up very depressed.  Of course, other physical health things that I’m feeling a bit powerless over are happening to me and certainly add to the blues.  But I haven’t felt this kind of depression in a very long time.  A lot of my good friends have been suffering since the Election.  I was far away and, even though I feared the worst, I just wanted to stick my head in the sand and “give the guy a chance”  As mostly billionaire white men were asked to be in his cabinet, I started fearing for the people who voted him in.  How are they going to feel when they start losing subsidies and whatever little health care the ACA had given to them?

Later this morning, I got an alert from the NYTimes about another executive order signed.  Suddenly I just couldn’t take it any more.  I have no control over what’s going on in Washington but I do have some control over how I’m going to feel each day.  I went to my iPhone settings and turned off all my alerts from my news sources.  I may stop the domestic digest of the NYTimes and only get the International digest.  I can handle that much better.

While I was writing, my friend Barbara sent me a YouTube clip “Make American first, the Nederlands second”  It made me smile, I need to smile.                                                                     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX_uFqc3WHI&feature=share

I also believe that the antidote to my depression is action.  I will have to do something.  Something that I’m able to do after a hip replacement surgery.  As a university student, I was very active protesting the Vietnam war.  I was a follower then.  I wouldn’t have admitted that at the time.  I couldn’t think very clearly for myself.  Plus, I was not alone.  Being a protester in the north against the War was almost a social event.  It’s important to me that I think clearly, that I do my protesting in a way that fits with my values and beliefs and my capabilities.

This is an on-going saga.  I’ve got four years to perfect my protesting.  One thing I will say about Trump.  He is definitely a unifier.  He has unified my friends and so many others, witness the Women’s Marches all over the world, in a way that hasn’t existed in a very long time.  More to be revealed…..

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Back home in the City of Light

While in California, I sent my downstairs neighbor a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I sent it the day after the election.  Being somewhat numb, I couldn’t think what to say so I wrote “Greetings from Oakland” or something banal like that.  When she received it, she texted me “Merci Sara pour la très belle carte du pont de SF qui sera toujours là après les élections….(thank you Sara for the lovely card of SF’s bridge which will still be there after the elections…”)

Golden_Gate_Bridge_0002.jpg

I had similar thoughts the morning after I returned.  Sitting at my table, looking out my window on to the Seine and the Pont Neuf, I thought “this scene doesn’t change.  It has survived bad kings, the french revolution, the terror, the commune, World Wars I and II, surely the left can survive four years of the right led by someone who is going to have to take a speed course on the doings of US government.”

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And so my numbness slowly went away.  My jet lag has been relatively mild, just sleeping a lot.  I haven’t turned on the news.  I was hearing horror stories of teens doing very questionable things to non-white teens in their schools.  That was enough.  I’ll get back into my daily life here and sooner or later, things will be very clear on how the wind is blowing in the United States.

I’m told one of the first politicians to call and congratulate Mr. Trump was Marine La Pen, she who would very much like to be the next President of France.  We’ve called her the French Trump because of her stand on immigration.  After Brexit, she was ecstatic and called for a referendum in France.  She wants France to leave the EU.  I don’t think she’ll be called the french Trump anymore, too superstitious.  The French elections are in five months and eyes will be turned this way to see if bad things come in threes.  Ms. La Pen has been building power as immigration becomes the most important issue for almost everyone.  The choices, so far, are not great.

It’s a strange time.  I was born in the aftermath of World War II, grew up in the Kennedy years, became a hippie in my university years and now have watched politics swing as far away from those years as it could possibly get–at least in a democracy.  I’ve been extremely active in politics and I’ve been asleep.  Right now, it seems to me that what is called for is living the best possible life I can lead.  To do random acts of Kindness — because I can.

There is an opinion piece in the New York Times this morning written by Nicolas Kristof titled: A 12 step program for responding to President-Elect Trump.  I thought it inventive and smart.  I pass it on to you:

A bientôt,

Sara