Sunday, November 13, 2005

Isolation, exclusion, and consequences

For decades, possibly centuries, the French have been vigilantly guarding the essence of "Frenchness."

One result of this pattern of behavior has been the difficulty immigrants--especially North African immigrants--have had integrating into French society. It's not easy for most immigrants to integrate into a new culture and society.

Even in the U.S., with our history of successive groups of immigrants, each new wave has faced serious challenges to becoming accepted members of their local communities. Look no further than the Hmong, Somali, or Latino arrivals in Minnesota for the challenges they are facing--some even 25 years after they've arrived.

For the French, the challenges with immigration are greater, because of the enormous value placed on the "traditional" in France. Unlike the United States, it's nearly impossible for most people not born to French citizens to become citizens. This means they can't vote or become complete participants in the local civic life. It also means that the issues and interests one has are going to be ignored by the local political leadership.

Now, where can we find examples of people who have been dispossessed by local political leadership? Where they have isseues to be addressed, no recourse to address abuses or shortcomings? There are a few places coming to mind, but none of them are as well known around the world as the Palestinians.

And remarkably, the dispossessed in France are behaving much like the dispossessed in Palestine.

Let's see if the French come up with a better solution to their uprising than we've seen used in Palestine. I'm not confident we will.

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