November 10, 2005


This is not only a French crisis - all of Europe must heed the flames (Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, November 10th, 2005)

In the Bible, we read that God guided his people out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Now the impoverished youth of France's outer-city ghettoes are speaking to all of us through a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. Their pillars are made of burning cars - some 6,000 to date - yet this apparently pointless violence has as clear a message as the one Moses followed. Europe, which to their immigrant parents seemed like the promised land, has turned into a new bondage.

"You know," a young man called Bilal told a reporter at Housing Project 112 in Aubervilliers, "when you brandish a Molotov cocktail, you are saying 'help!' One doesn't have the words to say what one resents; one only knows how to talk by setting fire." So they know what they are doing. They speak through fire.

To say this is not to justify the resort to violence. Nothing in the world can justify the beating to death of an elderly, innocent bystander, Jean-Jacques le Chenadec, a retired car worker who was reportedly just trying to extinguish a fire in a rubbish bin near his home. Nothing. But...

If throwing a Molotov cocktail is a cry for help, doesn’t that make shooting him just another way of saying: “I love you”?

Posted by Peter Burnet at November 10, 2005 6:14 PM

Does anyone remember the 80s TV show "Sledge Hammer!"? It's recently been released on DVD, and there's a great episode where a loonie lefty tries to stop Sledge's police-brutality ways. I used to think that the character was just as much of a satire as the right-wing Sledge represents, but the last few years have shown that he is a fairly accurate portrayal...

Posted by: b at November 10, 2005 6:50 PM

Shooting him really is an act of love, you know, love for his victims, love for the fire-bomber himself, who is being spared from consummating his sins.

St. Augustine is good on this; Luther too. The former would caution that we are not get too much pleasure out of it.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 10, 2005 6:53 PM