As voters become increasingly disillusioned by the election race, presidential candidates are trying to give their electorate a boost by telling them that they should simply feel great about being French. From a country whose self introspection and depression (among many other things) inspired me to write a book, the sudden emergence of Gallic pride is a tad unsettling.
It all began with Sarkozy who sought to reap some National Front voters by promising a Ministry of Immigration and National Identity. Oo la la! Everyone immediately began accusing the son of a Hungarian immigrant of pandering to the far-right. And then suddenly Segolene plucked the flag right out from underneath him. At a March 18 rally for 4,000 local elected officials she played the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, and urged all French people to display a flag at home.
The guns from the far left came out. José Bové, the anti-capitalist farmer, accused Royal of ‘trying to Americanise our country,’ a sentiment echoed by the centrist Bayrou.
I could get distracted here and warble into a long rant about flags. (To be brief: football hooligans in the U.K. destroyed any pride we may have had in out Union Jack flag which is rarely seen on public buildings in the U.K. As a teenager I was taken aback by the prevelance of the French flag, and as a 20-something equally taken aback by the fondness for the American flag in the U.S.). But I’d rather focus on the important things. Why is there suddenly this renewed call for patriotism? Often when people reach out for symbols of strength, it is because they are feeling awfully insecure.