What do we do when old friends express right wing views? A personal take on the rise of the right in Europe.
Remember when we were kids, the Front National was this hateful and hated minority party with its scary one-eyed leader. He looked like a pirate and we knew he represented evil. Our parents had told us so and as kids it was obvious that someone hating everyone was bad. It was fairly simple, really. You might remember the massive protests following each of Jean-Marie’s interventions in a town, the way people would glue black ribbons on all the signs of the streets he would pass by. We knew some people voted for him, but we didn’t know any personally.
In 2002, we found out that 17% of voters voted for the Front National. It was such a shock, the shame of a nation. We were 14 and our history teacher had just told us about the consequences of intolerance and hatred. As we visited the Struthof, the only concentration camp in France, we imagined how heroic we would be if a similar situation ever came. So we demonstrated on the street with thousands of others, feeling a part of something bigger. It was the only act of bravery our parents would allow us anyway. After a while, we overcame the shock. After all, it is not that the people actually believed in the Front National or liked it, they were just sending a warning to mainstream parties. We could breathe again. The Front Républicain was here, stronger than ever. No pasaran.
2007 was exciting. Our first presidential election! You voted for Sarkozy. I can’t say I was thrilled, he always scared me a little, but at least we were united against the really bad guys. We had a lot of arguments, mainly on economy. Not that we knew anything about it. You said you did not agree on everything he was saying, that he was trying to get some of the FN’s votes, but he wanted to create unity in the country and to get us out of the crisis (Oh had we known back then what a crisis would look like).
As the year passed, the UMP went further and further and your critiques of them remained as mild. Maybe he wasn’t entirely right but he had some good points, you said. You even agreed on breaking the Front Républicain as you felt the left was just as dangerous. That was hurtful by the way.
And here we are, 8 years later. You crossed the line when the pirate went blond. If we’re still friends today it means I care. And it means you break my heart every time I hear you say that the Front National isn’t that bad after all. Sometimes I fight with you, sometimes I let it go by fear of reaching a breaking point in our friendship. Or because I am just exhausted of having the same fight over and over again. It means I want to shake you every time you post an anti-Islam comment, every time you post something about a terrorist saying “this is Islam” (as if you were the exact same person as your bigot grandmother because you both call yourself Catholics). Every time you say something about the problems migrants cause to the country I wonder: have you forgotten I am a second generation?
The theory of the FN vote is well known: the growing influence of cultural matters in the political discourse and the fear of a downgrading of living-conditions. But let’s be real. You’re an intelligent person, how could you truly believe that the FN will ever provide a solution to economic matters? Or that cultural isolationism and intolerance could be the way to a greater influence of the French values (which by the way are tolerance and openness – but you know that, we both read Camus for school)?
So all is left is the political disappointment of the UMP and PS (that is legit). But picking an even worse party out of spite is a rather stupid strategy; you’ll give me that. I’ll finish this letter to you my friend with a song we used to sing together when we first protested against them together. They might look less scary, but it is the SAME party as the one we used to protest against together:
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