I totally screwed up my commute to work today. I haven’t done that in a year and a half! I looked out of the window of the metro wagon (subway car), and didn’t recognize any of the station names. The buildings were not ones that I had seen before. My immediate suspicion—and I don’t even want to think about what this says about the functioning of my mind—was that the metro had smoothly slipped into an alternate universe. Hm, what to do… A check of the sign above the door verified that I was on the right line. A glance out the window verified that I was going in the right direction. Finally, I asked the teenager sitting next to me if they had recently changed the names of the stations—nope. OK: time to go over the various options again. I took a closer look at the sign above the door. It lists the stops, in order, and I soon found the strange station names that I’d been seeing—and realized that I had missed my stop.
I’d missed my stop because I was deep in thought about yesterday’s elections. In the first tour (the first round of voting), the far right National Front party had placed first in six out of thirteen regions. Not surprisingly, I had been greeted in the metro station this morning, the day after elections that saw the far right take a region that had been held by the Socialists, by the following new piece of graffiti: Vive la France—sans juifs. That’s “long live France—without Jews.”
It’s not a great time to be Jewish in France right now. The right wing has always been anti-Semitic; at the moment, it’s à la mode (fashionable) to be anti-Semitic on the left, too; and, according to The New Yorker’s George Packer’s recent article on the poor suburbs of Paris, the tendency among North African voters is to figure that the far right hates Jews even more than they hate North Africans, so: vote for the far right.
I grew up visibly Jewish—peyos (sidecurls), a yarmulke, all that—so, I am not a stranger to visible expressions of anti-Semitism by any means. I grew up around way too many people with numbers tattooed inside their arms not to know that it can be deadly dangerous. I also have seen it so relentlessly in my own life since then—as an adult with my mother’s French and German Christian looks and tattoos all over my…well, a lot of tattoos, I’m not visibly Jewish, and people often don’t bother to hide racism around me—that I know that most of the time, it’s just assholes. I know that if you don’t go to anti-Semitic places, you will never go anywhere. You most likely won’t be able to stay at home, either.
Everything in the history of Jews in Europe tells you that you have to keep an eye on anti-Semitism–Germany was one of the most civilized, cultured countries in the world–probably the best one for Jews in Europe–right up until it killed 6,000,000 people just like me, just like my grandmother, just like my kid. Everything in the history of everyone in the world also tells you that it’s not adaptive to get freaked out by anything—even malignant assholes. So, no more getting so deep in thought that I screw up my commute–fragility gets you nowhere with this shit. But, I’ll be watching the second tour (second round of elections, with the just the top three placers from the first tour running) pretty closely. I’m totally into the vive la France (long live France) part of that graffiti. But, regarding the sans juifs (without Jews) part: je les emmerde—screw them.
- le scrutin: poll, polls, ballot, vote, voting, election.