French Upset Over Algeria Films

In the New York Times:

The story of the fight inside France by the F.L.N. is little known, and the story of the brothers is compelling. But it is Mr. Bouchareb’s effort to compare the F.L.N. to the French Resistance against the Nazis that is most controversial, and what drives most French critics crazy.

Mr. Bouchareb dismisses the protests as ignorant, says the film is about “injustice” and told reporters at Cannes that “it is for sociologists or other experts to say why in France people find it difficult to journey into the past,” as if the past had a clarity that current politics do not.

I watched The Battle of Algiers for a class at Columbia, which made this article all the more fascinating to me: The French don’t want to hear about their disgrace in Algeria just as Americans don’t want to hear the reality of Iraq and Afghanistan. My gut response to such national revulsion is, “Well, them’s the way the cookie crumbles.  Next time try minding your own business.”  Of course, I have no way of knowing how accurately these films portray the colonization period.

The article contrasts the French response with the more historically apt US’ washing its hands of Vietnam.  The last paragraph makes a great point – When you have a million citizens colonizing and intermixed (to a degree, I’m sure) with the occupied population, you can’t just send the troops home and forget about the whole thing.

France and its European neighbors have been struggling with terrorism and Muslim immigration (not that the two are inseparable) for years, and by most reports have it worse off than we do in the US.  From what I understand, Muslim immigrants in America assimilate far more completely than in Europe, where they are more likely to settle in enclaves that have an antagonistic relationship with the state.

Even though I was aware of the immigration issues, it was kind of surprising to see non-white ethnicities in Paris last summer.  When you think of Europe, you just imagine a homogeneous white population.  There did seem to be some ethnic tension, though I never saw any outright fights or arguments.  I’d really like to see all of us do a better job of reaching across communities and welcoming immigrants while expecting them to live up to the values of the liberal Western countries they settle in.  The post-9/11 focus on the threat of terrorism only makes the tension worse and probably causes us to miss opportunities to recognize our common humanity.   I want to see immigrants and natives alike, in America, France and elsewhere, coexist in prosperity.  It’s better for everyone’s security, economy and culture.

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