The Marseillaise, the French national anthem, causes goose bumps. Especially when it was sung yesterday a capella, by high school and college students surrounding Manuel Valls and François Hollande at the Sorbonne, by the masses at the Place de la Republique mourning last Friday's martyrs, by Parisians who came to engage in private prayer outside the bullet-ridden restaurants, by the 900 parliamentarians standing inside the golden walls of Versailles.
In fact, this last day of national mourning will be marked by the first truly warlike measures. Because we have now moved past this antiquated ideal of a leftist party that, in popular imagination, for a long time has left the claim to citizens' safety to the right-wing. How far we are from the famous Peyrefitte Act called "Security and Freedom" so strongly resisted before 1981! How far we are from the battle that Lionel Jospin had to undergo in order to portray the kind of courage that the leftist party was being denied! How far we are quite simply from the famous "feeling of insecurity" admitted by the leftist party, who for a long time had trouble categorizing threats to public order!
It's true that, this 13th of November, "the battle had a change of heart" as Hugo said of the Battle of Waterloo. Or more precisely, of enemy. It's no longer inconsequential or moderate delinquency that is upsetting our fellow citizens, but "the abomination," "the revolting attack," "the despicable killers," to borrow the words of Francois Hollande, that have struck France and are threatening the world. Time will tell if a president coming from the left will know how to respond to this, without France losing its values, and by integrating proposals from the right, even from the extreme right (national unity helps?), which not long ago would have caused an uproar from a socialist president -- the forfeiture of nationality in certain cases of those with dual nationalities, for instance -- but which now appear more acceptable, albeit symbolic, after the November 13th cataclysm.
Time will tell if it's a good idea to revise the Constitution under the influence of emotion. Let's be honest: we mocked Nicolas Sarkozy plenty of times, who, at the whim of current events, changed the laws, instead of at least looking closely into the constitutional changes that might perpetuate crises.
Time will tell if, like the whole planet from this point forward, we are right in re-examining our priorities concerning foreign policy. Let's be honest here too; we're supporting proposals made a long time ago by the right and which the left strongly opposed. That undoubtedly deserves a longer period of reasoning than a speech or, if not, if France's approach was up until now flawed, a real mea culpa.
This speech, loudly applauded, was nonetheless on a par with the recent events. It had its share of authority (in accordance with the President's reputed skill), and was solid and resolute (as opposed to the usual flexibility for which he is often reproached). This morning on France Inter, Manuel Valls had the task of speaking the words that François Hollande didn't want to: radical Islam, Islamism, fundamentalism, hate speech.
The most difficult thing that is left to be done after this massacre is to understand what is happening to us, to conceptualize the hate that is enveloping us, to conceptualize the profound threats looming over our democracies. Yes, to arms, citizens. Today. But what about tomorrow?
________________ This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.
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