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‘Not French enough’ after 50 years? PM reignites national identity debate

A Norwegian-born French politician was berated this week for suggesting that the Bastille Day military march was outdated. Told to “go home” by a ruling party politician, the controversy has touched on a very raw nerve in France – national identity.


By daring to suggest that France’s annual military march should be replaced by a civilian parade on Thursday, Green presidential candidate Eva Joly (right) incurred the wrath of the tank-adoring rightwing. She was simply “not French enough to understand”, they snapped. After all, she had only lived in the country for… 50 years. 


Among the bleated shrieks of indignation and hoots of patriotism, some of the most cringeworthy remarks came from France’s own politicians. Twitter-crazed MP Lionel Tardy set the tone on Thursday, when he swiftly concluded that it was time for Joly to “Get back to Norway”. The next day, Prime Minister François Fillon added his two cents. “I don’t think that this lady has a very longstanding culture concerning France’s traditions, values, its history,” he sighed. 


It's either Norway or us


Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, of which Fillon and Tardy are members, has just spent the past two years denying that its policies – and even the party itself – are xenophobic. This latest blunder is not going to help.


And yet it comes as no big surprise. The UMP’s recent “identity debate” was catastrophic, only leading them further towards the far-right. To make matters worse, a report leaked in June revealed proposals to directly target dual-citizen nationals, in order to make them more patriotic. The plans, which have since been hushed-down, would have seen people with dual nationality forced to give up their second passport. Dual citizenship was described as “a vector for potential conflicts of interests and allegiances”.


So, it’s no wonder Eva Joly was an easy target for the UMP. Someone who has two nationalities, standing for president? Bashing the country’s military show? Never!


Straight off the Viking ship


It didn’t take long for France’s rightwing Twittersphere to shake its head in disapproval. But the strongest argument came in response not to Joly's comments, but the “stupid” reactions from Fillon (right) and Tardy. Socialist primary candidate Martine Aubry quickly pledged her solidarity with Joly, chiding Fillon as “a prime minister who distinguishes French people by their origins”. 


Another Socialist Party member, Manuel Valls – himself born in Barcelona – said that although he didn’t agree with Joly, “discrediting her because of her origins, as Fillon did, is not to be tolerated”. 


Joly herself, made a witty comeback, telling Fillon that she had “not just stepped off the Viking ship”. As some Twitterers pointed out, Joly gained French citizenship in 1967, before Fillon – then 13 – had even left school.


So what was Joly up to, while all eyes proudly trailed the tanks rolling up and down the Champs-Elysees on Bastille Day? She was just down the road, attending a concert in support of anti-racism. That news went unreported. But as satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, pointed out, “Campaigning against racism – it’s not a truly old French tradition, is it?”


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French for the French? France for the Plantagenets, s'il yous plait. Again...
Sadly, UMP ;has resorted to the fate of right-wing parties with unsustainable economic policies — that is, since they can not appeal to the enlightened self interest of a majority of their citizens, they appeal to ignorance, cowardice and fear. Even more sadly, there is still a market for that un-enlightenment, here in France, as there is an even grater market-share of the electorate in America. To be fair, in most of America there is a greater integration of immigrants. especially those who speak English and whose skin is not too dark. There are things that France could improve in this area — things that would make France safer and more productive., but France has a very old and beautiful culture; it is good that people are attached to it. J'adore ça moi-même
Britain had the biggest Empire the world has ever know and yet it is with great patriotism and pride that I can say we do not have these absurd fascistic North Korean style military 'parades'. Get over your racism France as Joly has more than proved her love for France.
@ Kenneth T. Tellis Dear Kenneth, the opposite would be right: Canada (and Quebec) has nothing to learn from France. Please recheck.
Where are the those who are quoting Zamenhoff going? He was an abject failure in the area of lingustics, so he had no clue as to howlanguages evolved. I am hoping against hope that France will not borrow a page from the Metis (Kebecois) of Canada, that are looking for language PURITY, when they have no RACIAL PURITY. And Remember that la mere FRANCE abandoned these Metis in North America on September 8, 1760. ;eaving them to their own devices. Their JOUAL (French patois) is atrocious to say the least, so France has nothing to learn from them.
France has a military? That's news to us in the U.S.A.
Lol @ all the ignorant racist trolls commenting. We went from Eva Jolly getting trolled to people basically advocating racial purity ROFL.
Quote frrom Wikipedia: 'The Free French forces were drawn mostly from the French colonial empire, rather than from metropolitan France. French nationals from the tropical African colonies formed a large part of the forces at the beginning, as were nationals from French Algeria. Later, many combatants were drawn from the native populations of French colonies. Sixty-five percent were conscripts from French West Africa, primarily Senegal[citation needed]. Other contingents were natives of Morocco, Algeria, and Tahiti (the Tahitians served with particular distinction in the western Sahara). The Free French forces also included units of the Foreign Legion.' Not French enough?
I am not French and so I do not have the same perspective. War and violence is at the start of many countries independence or freedom from tyranny and it isn't surprising that ongoing traditions develop from such violence. France, with its brutal National Anthem (...Qu'un sang impur, Abreuve nos sillons) and its Bastille Day parade is perhaps particularly steeped in traditions of shows of strength and their implied threat. The outcome is therefore understandable. That said I do think that the parade might better honour the courage and success of France's troops rather more than the show of weapons.
The French have a long and proud history, but they should be so defensive the moment suggests a change to their entrenched traditions. Afterall, not all traditions are 100% good or relevant. Mme Eva Joly is a person who could provide valuable, much needed feedback to France, being a foreigner who has lived here for 50yrs. What's the big deal to change the military parade to a cilivian one? The military could still participate to show off its prowess, but who wants to see line after line of military vehicles? Allow other civilian groups to participate on Bastille Day, to make it truly a day for the People of France; not just the military; a day on which the French can renew their pledge of loyalty to France and feel proud to be one nation.
France for the French!!
It would be easy to heavily criticize French politicians and the French people for this. The 'national identity' issue, however, is not a French but a European one. The far-right is growing explosively all over Europe. All Europeans express shock over what Ander Breivik recently did in Norway. I have heard very little outrage from Europeans concerning the nationalistic, racist, xenophobic ideas behind his actions.I am Dutch but have been living in Botswana for over 13 years. I am white and 'pure' Dutch, but my wife and children are not - wrong colour. This is one of the reasons I won't be settling in Europe again.
This military parade is incredibly stupid and makes France resemble an insecure version of some post Soviet dictatorship. Oh Mama, look! There's the latest overpriced rockets that President Sarkozy paid for with the illegal donations he pocketed last year. Wow! They make him look like he has a big penis,don't they? And look! There's Carla looking serene and showing only a slight baby bump. Gee, at last year's event they weren't even talking or hanging out together. Those big penis missiles must have won her over so he could knock her up! How wonderful this parade is! How patriotic!
I wonder why French people don't get red everytime french military get's glorified soviet/chinese - style. Have they forgotten their humiliation in WWII? Or is it because they remember? Who knows....
Ah Sophie, you just can’t wait until France is under Sharīʿah and your owner makes you wear the Burqa, another communist wanting to destroy western civilization.
re: Julien's comment: It must be noted that France's 14 july parade is NOT like any American 4th of July parade. I cannot speak for English military parades, but local American parades are entirely civic in nature: the high school band, the antique car club, the Rotary and Lions Clubs throwing candies to the kids. The closest to military that most parades get are the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the fire engine. The police clear the route and supervise. The U.S. does NOT have a federal-level parade with an equivalent display of military power: tanks, missiles, jets and all the different cadres of the military and their schools - even the ancien Guard Royale! - rolling down the Champs-Elysees. Which is why the parade is so fascinating to watch, as my beau and I did for the last 6 years, living in Paris. LOVED the parachutists flying over Paris and dropping in at Sarko's feet!!
Perhaps when Mme Joly returns to Norway (or is transported there by M Fillon's government) she will take with her the British born wife of M Fillon.
Eva Joly is an example of an immigrant from Denmark who married a french national and gained french nationality after. The 14th of july parade is a good thing it is like the 4th july parades in the US or the november military parades in London. It is to unify and to remember the efforts that the past and present gave their blood to defend the freedom of France. The truth is deeper than any statement. France's human identity has changed greatly since 1968. Today the common frenchman is somewhere between a frenchman born in the north of France and an imigrant from Togo who plays football for... France, even Sarkozy is from Hungarian roots (his father). The hardest thing facing the French traditionals is assimilation... The racism shown in the politics is a mirror of the feelings the white french are having at the possible loss of their identity culture their history. You go into supermarkets and the food even has Hallal stickers on them. The new identity is not clearly outlined, my grandfather and his brother fought in WW1 against the Hungarian Prussian German coalition, today some 94 years later the French president is one of them!
good article
good article
Anonyme, the title refers to Prime Minister François Fillon (who caused the most outrage with his comments about Joly), hence the PM, not MP.
Perhaps France should remember that the nationalist flame ignited by the small guy with mustache whipped out their proud Maginot line. Zamenhoffs Esperanto is still an unspoken language in xenophobic divided Europe. We are Europeans or we will not be at all anything related to that in the near future. This is not the peoples republic of Vermont versus US debate. This is political immaturity. I love France, but who can approve their latest political adventures? Not to speak of the military ones, is Cochin (Vietnam) ringing the bell, Algeria is blinking on the map not far away from Tobruck, wanted as much now as in the 1940s, in a military bad ending adventure. This made Napoleon so unique claiming to be what he is and not what he imagined. Russia and China are just waiting for "la pagaille" to start in Europe so that they can send "their peace keeping force" for a cultural exchange. It is time to wake up, all Europeans, the world has changed. We should be united and not exiling people from California to the Vermont. How would this sound in America... face the reality this is how it sounds in the world... "penible".
Dear Carrie, what happened to you is really bad and shows how limited some people are in thinking. But this should not stop you from looking beyond the borders, as this makes you the winner. I remember meeting a young American woman on her way to Egypt, where her fiancee welcomed her, and I strongly advice you to do the same. Don't limit yourself to the US or Europe, but go more to the East, and especially Egypt, and you will find a new world with warm hearted people welcoming you and giving you the chance to enrich your life in a way you never could imagine before. All my best wishes to you !
Well! The French Military History is not the most glorious History except perhaps the French participation in the battle of Northern Norway where Norwegian and French soldiers together managed to give Hitler his first defeat during WWII. I believe that Madame Joly is more concerned about what kind of values France is giving their inhabitants. Are soldiers and tanks a modern way of declaring a national identity? I believe that France should modernize its national symbols. It is a wonderful country and I love living there!!!!
So being French is anything anyone wants it to be at any moment? If the military is not French enough for Bastille Day, when is it French enough to show its pride and support by some of the public? Has it really reached the point in France where to be "really French" you have to be intolerant of the military appearing in public on any day? I may be a non French idiot, but it seems to me that being tolerant should suggest that all parts of French society have a place in the nation including the military? Non?
The title should be "MP reignites national identity debate" not PM... (member of parliament nor Prime Minister)!
'National Identity" as a major political issue is the French equivalent to the "Gay Marriage" issue in the States- they divert attention away from all the big problems the government doesn't want to face.
What is so hard to comprehend for some? Bashing a nation's long held tradition (again:tradition!) by a foreign born individual with ties to radical minority is repulsive to natives. How about bashing the kingdom of Norway for being obsolete by a Romanian immigrant with an accent? Intelligent man like Austrian born Schwarzenegger - ex Governor of California - would never bash his adopted country. This woman is a creep.
The french know they identity,it is the Politicans that represent them .Since the second world war,they Presidents were all,French, and what French values stand for,Equality,Liberty,Fraternity, and loved they country DeGaulle,Mitterand,Chirac.Etc.Any example can be seen when they strike ,they all united.Nothing can be more admirable in humans .Unity.In fighting for the rights of the weak ,vulnerable.,and oppressed.
Sophie, For Christ's sake, how wrong can one be? The appreciation of honor and respect is timeless. No doubt you'd love to instead have had a hippie love in or something pathetic like that, but that's not how life works. Vive la liberte! Vive le France!
Why you would let someone's ranting bother you is beyond me. You don't need to defend yourself, especially toward someone like you decribe!
Mrs. Fillon, I believe, was born in Wales which makes her something of a secondary citizen in France. I hope she throws Francois out of the house.
Dear Ms. Pilgrim: I have a deal for you. We will trade you Obama for Sarkozy. The fate of the USA depends on getting rid of our useless president but I suspect Obama would be great to put France back on the path toward socialist utopia (and eventual demise as a culture). We are even willing to throw in a few trillion dollars to close the deal (which will soon be worthless at the rate Obama is having it printed). Please let me know if we have a deal. Sincerely, Terry.
one does not have to salute any flag to retain one's indentity .
If you are not of European decent and were not born in France you will never be considered French by the French people. Which is understandable. People immigrating to France need to understand that they will forever be a guest in the country regardless of how long you have lived there. That is why France has remained France since Rome fell. The French have common sense. Which sadly Americans have lost as we are losing our identity.
At the risk of stating the obvious, if you are uncomfortable by the reaction of morons to what you want to do. Stop telling everyone and delete your posting here. DUH
Its not identity. Its not what you say. Its what you do. If supporting france is an issue then yes you must follow the country you are living ins customs. Im italian but my grandfather worked in france/germany after the ww2. He made money there went back to italy and left for canada. Now i have to follow canadian customs. Thats what is called being a minority. If dont like it then Fillon is right everybody should go back to their own country where they can critisize their own people. It is disrespect to go to france and critisize french tradition.
I agree with some of the UMP: Ironically Gro (her real first name) Eva Jolly is trying to Globalise France or Americanise it by diluting its Frenchness yet Globalisation is anathema to the Greenies she represents. You know go local and all that. Her bio says Gro Eva has done a lot of good for investigating corruption but she should stick with the investigation and not participate in corruption of French culture.
As far as national identity goes, I was a bit shocked that the fireworks show after the military parade was a show-tune theme, and that most songs were in English... and the night ended on 'I want to be in America'. Hard to imagine an American July 4th celebration ending with a rousing song singing the praises of France :)
Go Home ! Funny a french woman shouted this at me from her BMW- around the Streets of St. Michel yesterday. Why ? Because I was legally crossing the street and saw their black BMW barrelling full speed towards me. I raised my hand to suggest "HEY Don't hit me French drivers who don't respect signals and crossing...." Her male partner driving was so kind to slow down to a virtual stop after I made it safely to the other side of the street. She rolled down her window and shouted at GO HOME BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY ! Wow...really?? You almost maimed me with your BMW, and you 'appear' educated. Really?? Are you such a bigot ? And for FILLON and TARDY, I have news...the world has CHANGED. It is a global ECONOMY. And France needs it's immigrants to survive. Also bigotry isn't very's so....50 years ago. 'just sayin'
First. Don't shop at Walmart. I am unabashly a francophile. I am second generation from Mexico. People question me, until I state I am a retired naval officer who served over 20,years. This leaves them speechless.
Carrie, do you have a mental problem or lost? The United States is made up of everyone of every country . You can go to any city, town, school, or place of religion and find every kind of people on the planet. You can not expect us to be perfect, but we're the best because we are UNITED. Name a race (ethnicity) that the U.S.A. doesn't have. Every country that hates us must hate themselves because they have family here. We have our xenophobia of course, but when there's an emergency, disaster, we are all together to help! So in a country with our diversity, I am sure you can find something you'll like so shut the fuck up! PS Thank you France for Statue of Liberty! We love you guys!!
How sad Carrie Varner. I always feel that blind nationalism is the defence of the mindless. What a sad, blind ,unquestioning community you live in. It's the type of attitude that one might expect to come across in an uneducated country. And as far as Bastille cellebrations go the same sort of debate should be accepted too. Without questioning and change how are we to progress.
"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind." -- Albert Einstein
I know when it comes to Americans defining their national identity, we either don't care unless its the 4th of July or we get too zealous in our identity. I endured that earlier this week at the local Wal-Mart. A lady and I were talking about dating and relationships and after I told her that I've always wanted to date someone from another country, she flipped. It got worse when I told her that I was thinking of dating someone from France and eventually moving there. She started yelling at the top of her lungs and accused me of betraying America, being a socialist, and being a communist. She even got a crowd of people to agree with her. I walked away fast, however, when I got on the bus, a lady from that crowd berated me the whole way home and got people from other countries to agree with her. I've had to deal with her daily as she has a friend at my apartment building(I'm hoping the extreme heat and humidity will keep her at her apartment the next few days). I know that everyone deserves to have their national pride and identity respected at all costs, however, by making someone feel as though they are no longer welcome in their own country(I definitely feel that way right now after what happened), it takes away the meaning of true national pride and identity and makes the country in general seem uncaring, unsympathetic, and xenophobic.
I currently live in the USA and as many people, find myself in a very difficult financial situation and am unable to move home. All my family live in France with the exception of my mother who will be returning next year. I cannot imagine having my citizenship/identity taken away from me. If you are lucky enough to be home in France - upon awakening in the morning breath the sweet air in and be thankful you live in France, as many of us wish we could be home. You have no idea how lucky you are just to turn on the TV and hear french, to have good bread, to just enjoy the everyday things you never think about that make France so special. I would trade with you in an instant!!! Do not take it for granted it is a great privilege to live in the greatest country on earth - my beloved France...