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  • Professor John Merriman: This is all relevant.

  • What happened at Villiers-le-Bel was that you got

  • your basic cop car, coming along,

  • and it wasn't rolling aggressively,

  • it was about fifty kilometers an hour, and these two young

  • North-African extraction youths, without helmets,

  • didn't yield to the car. They were on a scooter,

  • sort of essentially a motorcycle, not a big one but a

  • scooter. And, so, they hit the car on

  • the left side and unfortunately they were both killed.

  • And then the police stayed a bit and made calls but the calls

  • that they made were more, "we have something spinning out

  • of control," it's not about how are these two kids who--and you

  • see, they left it there for two

  • days, they circled it all away. So, you still see these little

  • guys' tennis shoes and you see--you can see traces of their

  • having expired. And, so, Villiers-le-Bel,

  • which is about eighteen kilometers north of Paris--it's

  • near Roissy, it's near Sarcelles,

  • where there was a lot of trouble before,

  • it's near Gonesse; it's in the Val d'Oise--went up

  • in flames basically, and unfortunately a lot of

  • people were hurt in the fighting.

  • And yesterday they burned, somebody stupidly burned the

  • library, and the library is not associated with the

  • flics, with the cops,

  • it's not associated with the State even, it is the municipal

  • library where lots of kids go and study in the municipal

  • library. And, so, this was just la

  • connerie, this is not possible to do

  • stuff like that. But, anyway,

  • part of the problem is that Sarkozy denigrated the people in

  • the suburbs as racaille, as scum, by implication,

  • that--and was Minister of the Interior during the big

  • troubles, a couple of years ago;

  • which I'm going to talk about on Wednesday,

  • the troubles, which started in

  • Clichy-sous-Bois. But there's a lot of--in

  • Toulouse where there had been trouble two years ago,

  • now it's happening in Toulouse, too, but I didn't--I'll watch

  • it this afternoon. It's a problem,

  • it's going to be a big problem for awhile.

  • And what makes it a little more scary is that this wasn't an

  • incident, where there have been incidents where the police

  • are--the police systematically control people of color,

  • systematically, in France, systematically.

  • I go through Barbès-Rochechouart,

  • which is a metro stop famous for the first place that

  • somebody shot and killed a German officer during Vichy

  • and--or the Gare de Lyon. I was in the Gare de Lyon,

  • not the other day but at the end of November--or for that

  • matter after Sarkozy was elected;

  • you go to the Gare de Lyon metro stop and all of a sudden

  • you turn the corner and then you've got ten policemen there,

  • controlling people. I've lived--I've spent half my

  • life in France for the last thirty years.

  • I have never been controlled, not once, not once.

  • And I've been with people going through, and you turn the

  • corner, and all of a sudden you've got all the police there.

  • And who do they pick out? They don't pick out whites

  • carrying little academic briefcases, they pick out

  • everybody, practically, who is young and who is not

  • white. And so this rubs people the

  • wrong way, to say the least, and it's part of the way this

  • works in the suburbs. And, so, this incident,

  • which involved a police car, was not coming in and sort of

  • saying "up against the mall MF" and all this but,

  • "let's see your papers." Because that's what happens,

  • and I've seen that happen. It was just unfortunately these

  • two policemen--who weren't doing anything wrong,

  • they were just--it was a banal trip through a banal suburb--

  • happened to hit these two kids who were not wearing helmets and

  • so they were killed. But this is--who knows what's

  • going to happen in this. But this is part of when you

  • see La Haine, hate, you see--that's the best

  • translation simply of it is hatred or hate.

  • And to understand how people in the suburbs feel you have to

  • understand the relationship between both--and I'm going to

  • do this again, in more detail;

  • I better get to what I'm doing today.

  • But that it's not just young people with not much of a

  • future, it also is, mostly has to do with

  • under-privileged and under-appreciated minorities

  • pitted against the CRS, the national kind of military

  • police, as well as the municipal police.

  • And of course what the government of Chirac did was

  • take away all the money virtually for voluntary

  • associations that are bridges to helping integrate people into

  • the communities in which they live and into the State in which

  • they live. But ce n'est pas

  • évident, comme on dit en

  • français, it's just--oh,

  • well, there we go. How did we get on that?

  • We got on that because it's important to talk about.

  • Allez. So, today I'm going to talk

  • about Charles de Gaulle. In November 1970,

  • ça passe vite, les temps,

  • I was a student in Paris, just a little older than you,

  • and living in an eleven-franc-a-night hotel,

  • on rue Monsieur le Prince--that was about two dollars a night.

  • My hotel room wasn't worth that, actually,

  • but it was kind of an interesting place to live

  • for--again, I was living in Limoges for a

  • lot of the year too. I went to the Archives one day

  • about--get there early, which I always do,

  • and this little man who was a World War Two veteran who had

  • lost most of his arm in the war, who would check my ID,

  • but he knew me so there was no problem--my wife used to come in

  • looking for me, when she was my wife,

  • carrying our baby and the groceries, and it's all very

  • cont racté,

  • very informal; it's not that way any more.

  • And he said, "we're going to close because

  • the general, il est mort"--the general is dead.

  • And Charles de Gaulle died, had died.

  • And I, I think, infuriated my Gaullist friend

  • by saying that he died of boredom watching French TV;

  • but he was off in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises,

  • and he had died at age--he must've just been eighty;

  • wasn't he eighty when he died, do you remember?

  • You don't remember, but anyway I think he was

  • eighty when he died. And, so, later my Gaullist

  • friend, who's a lawyer, a Parisian lawyer,

  • called me up and said, "look, why don't we go down to

  • Notre Dame and go to the Mass?" De Gaulle didn't want to have a

  • Mass, and I didn't particularly want to go down to Notre Dame

  • and go to the Mass for Charles de Gaulle,

  • but he said that it'll be--it's a historical event,

  • we should be there, you should see it.

  • And so I went down, we went down at three in the

  • morning and waited in line, and then they'd flown in all

  • these people. Haile Selassie was there,

  • that was kind of amazing to see Haile Selassie,

  • and the odious Richard Nixon was there and all these leaders,

  • with rather minimum security. This was not in a high security

  • time. You could see people who were

  • carrying machineguns up on the towers, you could see people in

  • the cathedral up--I was about the only person anyone saw get

  • frisked, going in.

  • They looked at me and said we want to check you out;

  • so they checked me out, with the long hair and all

  • that. But we got in there,

  • and it was a moment of--as a moment of history,

  • and it was something to see. His influence on French life

  • and the memory of French life can hardly--the collective

  • memory, of collective memory in French

  • life, can hardly be underestimated;

  • yet it was so long ago that he died, and the party that bore

  • his name disappeared, that even if someone like

  • Sarkozy or, before him, Jacques Chirac,

  • would go to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises,

  • this village in the Haute-Marne, in the east of

  • France, to have their picture taken in front of his tomb with

  • the Croix de Lorraine--de Gaulle seems like a long time ago.

  • But what he did in 1958 is of course to rescue the French

  • State and to define, in his own personage,

  • a certain idea of France that he represented.

  • And to borrow a Catholic image, de Gaulle who was born in

  • Lille, right near, as I said the other day,

  • right near the fortress--Lille is a pretty Catholic town--he

  • was not himself a practicing religious man,

  • but I suppose it's a religious image that I somehow have

  • retained in the back of my mind from the days at a good old

  • Jesuit high school in Portland, Oregon, that he saw himself as

  • the mystical body of France, that somehow the whole,

  • that is his body, his personage,

  • his very being, was bigger than all of the

  • parts that constituted the body of France,

  • and that he represented France with his very existence,

  • and that this was how he wanted to be remembered.