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France is still France whatever Donald Trump might say
Photo: AFP

France is still France whatever Donald Trump might say

Ben McPartland · 28 Jul 2016, 13:11

Published: 28 Jul 2016 13:11 GMT+02:00

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Has Donald Trump ever even been to France?

He certainly hasn’t in the last 18 months, but that doesn’t matter. He has the advice of one of his friends to base his opinions on.

During a news conference in Florida on Wednesday, the Republican presidential nominee brought up the recent attack on a church in Normandy, and said a friend who recently visited the country told him: "I wouldn't go to France. France is no longer France."

"They won't like me for saying that," Trump continued, "but you see what happened in Nice. You see what happened yesterday with the priest, who is supposed to be a spectacular man. France is no longer France."

Sorry to say, Mr Trump, but it is.

And it’s largely because the majority French people defiantly won’t allow themselves to fall victim to the kind of reaction Trump would call for in the aftermath of a series of devastating terror attacks.

No, France hasn’t closed its borders to Muslims.

There have been some unsavoury incidents which saw some veil-wearing Muslim women verbally abused but the country’s five million Muslims are still free to wander the same streets as everyone else.

There has been no walls put up around the banlieues - the poor suburbs home to mainly poor North African immigrant communities.

There may be anger but communities have not turned on each other.

As the BBC's man in France Hugh Schofield put it: “Since the killings began, there have been no crowds on the streets of Nice or Paris chanting "Death to Islamic State". Instead of flaming torches carried in angry procession, there are candles of remembrance.”

After Charlie Hebdo, the journalists who survived returned to work and published an edition one week after the attack. Members of the Jewish community still shop at the kosher stores around Paris.

Granted it took a few weeks, but Parisians returned to their favourite café terraces and music fans were soon snapping up tickets for concerts again, despite the horror of November 2015.

The Paris fashion show took place this year, so did the Cannes Film Festival and the Tour de France. Paris Plages beach festival is underway and so too is the Féte de Bayonne.

Euro 2016 passed off peacefully, the only shame being that France could not win and give all their supporters of multi-ethnic backgrounds who had packed the fanzones reason to celebrate.

When The Local visited Nice in the days after the attack, there were the usual sunbathers and strollers along the Promenade des Anglais. People told us of refusing to give in to fear.

And after the barbaric murder of a French priest in Rouen, religious leaders of all faiths got back behind the pulpit and preached unity, tolerance and even forgiveness for the teenagers responsible.

Of course it's far from all being rosy. Yes, we see soldiers on the street now and there are barriers around the entrance to police stations.

We have to have our bags searched more often and it definitely takes longer to get into rock concert or a football stadium now. Some small summer events have had to be cancelled.

The government has upped security and surveillance of course but as of yet it has refused to contemplate the idea of creating a "Guantanamo a la française" for anyone acting suspiciously. Instead it calls for cohesion and togetherness.

But on the whole liberté is still alive and well, if a little concerned.

There’s no doubt the French are on edge and angry, we’ll give Mr Trump that. The atmosphere is sombre and with each attack we’re left wondering what’s to come. And there are worries that extremists -  with views no doubt similar to the Republican candidate, give Isis exactly what they desperately want and react against the Muslim community.

But in the meantime most French have headed off on holiday, because it’s summer you see. And they are determined not to let a small number of individuals ruin their annual exodus to the coast.

Outside our offices people are playing pétanque by the canal, drinking rosé wine and dipping tomatoes in hummus. The beaches are packed, campsites are full and if Trump needed any more proof life in France was continuing as normal, there has been riots in the suburbs and Air France is in the middle of a week-long strike. 

So Mr Trump, despite all the problems it faces, both old and new, France is still France, and the French are determined to keep it that way. 

Story continues below…

We'll let the president have the last word as it was intended for you:

"France will always be France, because France will never yield and because France is always the bearer of ideals, values and principles, for which we are recognised throughout the world," François Hollande said..

"When you lower your standards, you are no longer what you are. That's something that may happen to others, on the other side of the Atlantic,"

If anyone would like to demonstrate to @realDonaldTrump that France is alive and kicking, perhaps follow us and tweet some pictures of everyday life to him under the hashtage #FranceIsStillFrance.

Here's a couple to use.

(Paris Plages beach festival. AFP)

(Parisians head out of the city on holiday. AFP)



Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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