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Category Archives: Opinions

French politics: back in my starting-blocks

Mr. Hollande is the new Tonton

Oh. it reminds me of my high school years. In 1981, in the evening of May 10th, I was on a train going from Bordeaux to Pau, in the south of France, back to boarding-school after spending a week-end at home. One of my school mate was running up and down the train looking for sympathizing faces.

– “He has been elected!”

ImageThat was all we needed. We discretely smiled and cheered. I was very happy. I was too young to vote (or to celebrate) but I felt like “my people” had talked and had been listened to.

We spent the previous weeks arguing over the possibility that François Mitterrand would become the French president.

Le voisin de Latche

Mitterrand, with his interesting and colorful political history, his Vichy past, and other “secrets” like his friendship with a second world war criminal… All this made him, somehow, a romantic reminiscence of the French aristocracy.

Yes, Mitterrand was left-wing, a sort of liberal socialist and yes, he restored the glory of the Socialist party among the left, but he represented what France is all about in my opinion: a large country, an ocean front, an economic power, a linguistic charm, a Latin descent, good wine, strong opinions and great principles. No matter what, no matter what the public opinion says, no matter what the other countries want.
It might be that many of this world’s inhabitants do not understand what it means to be a French citizen, but to us, in our high school years, Mitterrand represented exactly that.

He had strong opinions, was trying to remain a humanist despite all the political turmoil (and be assured, it is impossible to hold high one’s principles while being sucked into the vacuum of power). He got swallowed by history at times, and tried, against all odds, to swim with his personal opinions and loyalties on his head.

Mitterrand, after his election, had to “suffer” working twice with teams of the opposite camp. Would Mr. Sarkozy have managed this tour de force? I doubt it! It took someone like Mitterrand to look at the bigger picture.

The Prince, not the king

Well, let’s not forget that in France, an elected president mostly collects only half the vote bulletins. So, it means that out of roughly 34 million of voters, only around 17 millions and one vote are marching behind the new “prince.” It should not matter if the leader is what he claims to be in the first place: totally bought to France’s interests. Right?

So, good luck Mr. Hollande! You might not have the family name that holds credit for a nation’s great man as was General de Gaulle’s name, but you have been blessed with the first name of our Kermitterrand deity: François, first name of a Frank… you represent the hope that from now on, France’s image and soul will be restored, on the national territory and worldwide… and, no pressure but Florentin will be watching.

 

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Kill ex, check, kill daughter, check, kill self, missed

Oh, I read Metro this morning with my coffee, as I do nearly everyday. I saw the picture of this man, David Oakes, with his face cut in half and huge stitches to cover the gap.

This man is standing trial for allegedly killing his ex-wife and 2-year old daughter with a shotgun. He is pleading non-guilty as he claims that his ex-wife took the gum he brought with him (as anyone obviously does when visiting an ex-wife at midnight), killed her daughter, shot him in the face and then shot herself three times, before dying.

OK, let’s see how this story convinces anyone at the trial.

There are so many other stories like this one, for example: Mother of two stabbed by ex-partner

If need be, all this proves that, when a man has been violent with his wife for a long time, there is no happy ending. hence, I would like to say to all the people in the world who are treated violently and disrespectfully by a partner that there is NO CURE, there is no silver cloud in home violence, and the earlier you get out, the better.

It also proves that, if police were to take home violence seriously, so many hideous crimes could be avoided.

 

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Home Violence

 

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Your son called my son a nigger… I don’t like it!

It was the start of the skiing week… kids were enrolled in the ski school and all was well.

In the Red Princes group of 11 boys and 1 girl there was a little guy, eight years old… a tiny little thing cute as can be.
At the end of the afternoon, I heard from my son that he had been called “a nigger” on several occasions by this blond angel.

I read Mr. Obama’s early life records in his autobiographical book, and as I sat and listened to my son telling me how he was tired of the “white people” treating him badly because of his skin color, I could not but empathize with his situation. I heard him telling me that he was as white as he was black, but no one could see that. I listened to him tell me that he could listen to white people insulting him ten times, but the eleventh time, he would give a punch in someone’s face, because it was too much.

I tried to calm him down and explain that there was such a thing as ignoring someone’s bad words and walking away. My peaceful words fell into a closed ear.

So, the next day, I decided to brave the parents who gave life to the boy with the foul mouth. When I saw that a man accompanied the boy, I assumed he was the father and approached him. After checking that I was facing the right “opponent”, I stated my point:

“Your son called mine a “nigger” and I would like you to have a word with him”
The man immediately replied that he had heard of that and talked to his son.

“I don’t like it” I added.
The man said “I understand, and I apologise for this.”

At the end of the day, I inquired to find out how the day went and if there had been any more insults. My son said that the other boy stayed away from him all day.

Since I had voiced my disagreement when the boy was nasty to my son, I decided that I should let the father (and the boy) know that I appreciated the silence he had chosen towards my son. I bought a lollipop and presented it to the father the next day, saying that the boys had found a way to be peaceful and I appreciated it.

The father was stunned and said “This is such a nice gesture, I did not expect this. Thank you.”

Come to think of it, it is so much easier to throw punches… or nasty words. It is much harder to use “sorry” and “thank you” and smile, while stating one’s point of view in a matter as horrible as racism and hatred being spoken through young children towards others.
I tried to explain to my son that it is different if people insult him for something he did wrong, but it is unacceptable to be insulted for what he is, because he cannot change this, and he did not choose it.

Oh, growing up… growing older… what a dilemma.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Opinions

 

Why won’t they ask for help?

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Des femmes se font insulter, frapper, terroriser par leur mari ou compagnon, jour apres jour, et malgé cela, elles gardent le silence.

Le reste du monde saurait comment s’y prendre. Ils denonceraient, ils hurleraient. En fait, si ils découvrent la vérité sur une de ces femmes, ils veulent agir, ils veulent aider, ils veulent régler le problème, une bonne fois pour toutes. Mais très souvent, ils se trouvent devant un mur: “Merci mais je n’ai pas besoin d’aide… laissez-moi tranquille!”

Mme X habitait avec son mari et leurs deux enfants près de chez nous lorsque j’etais plus jeune. je n’ai jamais rencontré Mr. X mais sa femme passait les epaules courbées et le regard triste flanquèe de ses sacs d’épicerie. Ses deux garcons la suivaient de près sans jamais lui adresser un regard.
Un beau jour, nous avons appris que Mr. X avait été arrêté par la police alors qu’il était au bar avec ses amis. Sa femme avait été découverte sans vie dans la baignoire. Apparemment, elle s’était noyée pendant que les enfants jouaient dans le jardin. Il admit l’avoir frappé plusieurs fois, mais rien de bien sérieux, alors qu’ils se disputaient, comme cela leur arrivait souvent. Il la frappait en général sur la tête ce qui ne laissait pas de bleu visible. Il fut très surpris d’être accusé de meurtre.

L’autopsie a révélé que Mme. X était morte des suites d’un traumatisme crânien. La noyade avait eu lieu post-mortem. L’examen montra également qu’elle avait subi de multiples traumatismes non-traités aux cours des années précédentes. Les fractures s’étaient ressoudées mais il était facile ‘en conclure qu’elle avait été régulièrement frappée sur la tête bien avant le jour de sa mort.

Les deux garcons ont continié a jouer dans le jardin pendant que l’on transportait le corps de leur mère sur un brancard, ils ont ensuite continué de jouer dans le jardin de leur famille d’accueil.

Mme X, comme beaucoup d’autres femmes, n’a jamais parlé de sa condition, n’a jamais cherché de l’aide. Elle s’était enfermée dans un enfer ou la peur, la souffrance et le degoût étaient les seules émotions qui lui étaient permises.

Tant qu’elle ne voulait pas d’aide, personne n’aurait pû lui en apporter.

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Women get insulted, hit, terrorised by their spouse, day after day, and still, they keep silent.

The rest of the world knows better. They would talk, they would scream. As a matter of fact, once they find out, they want to act, they want to help, they want to solve the problem, quick, simple, done! More than often, they find themselves faced with a wall… “Thank you but I don’t need your help… leave me alone!”

Mrs. X lived with her husband and their two children nearby our house, when I was a young adult. I never met Mr. X but his wife carried around her round shoulders and a pair of sad eyes, as well as grocery bags. The two boys followed her closely, and they never looked at her.
One fine day, we heard that Mr. X was arrested while having a drink with his friends at the local bar. His wife was found lifeless in the bathtub. She apparently drowned while the boys were playing in the garden. He admitted to having hit her a couple of times, nothing too serious, during one of their many fights. He used to hit her on the head so that no one would ever see bruises. He was very surprised to be charged with murder.

The autopsy revealed that Mrs. X died from a concussion and that the drowning happened later on. The examination also showed evidence of many more concussions that left her skull broken in many places during the preceding years. These wounds healed over time but it was easy to conclude that she had been regularly beaten on the head way before her death.

The two boys continued playing in the garden as their mother’s body was carried in a stretcher, and then, they went on to play in the garden of their foster parents.

Mrs. X, just like many other women, never talked, never looked for help. She had locked herself in an inferno where fear, pain and disgust were the only feelings she was allowed to experience.

As long as she did not want help, no one could give it to her.

 
 

The question was “How come?”

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Pourquoi les chiffres liés à la violence conjugale ne diminuent-ils pas, alors que nous avons même maintenant des lois qui déclarent les violences conjugales comme étant un crime? Surprise? Mais enfin, il y a quelques années, se faire agresser par son conjoint n’était pas un crime que l’on pouvait dénoncer au commissariat. Heureusement, les temps ont changé.
Mais encore faudrait-il, pour pouvoir porter plainte, avoir quelque chose à déclarer, car beaucoup de femmes qui ont survécu à une longue histoire de violences conjugales ne savent plus ou se situe la limite du tolérable.

Lola vit avec son concubin depuis quatre ans, ils ont deux enfants. Il la frappe quelquefois quand il est en colère, mais autrement, la plupart du temps, il est aimant et gentil. Elle se demande si il est violent ou seulement enervé par son attitude quand la coupe est pleine. Portera-t-elle plainte un jour?  A-t-elle porté plainte le jour ou il l’a attrapée par la tête et l’a secouée, causant ainsi un déplacement de vertèbres?

Bien sûr, Lola peut encore appeler le 3919, et expliquer sa situation, en espérant qu’il ne découvrira jamais qu’elle a osé le dénoncer, même anonymement. Mais cela ne deviendra une option pour elle que lorsqu’elle sera prête à rebondir… ce qui pourrait très bien ne jamais arriver.
Entre temps, elle vit dans la terreur de sa prochaine colère, en espérant qu’elle puisse cacher les bosses et garder le voile sur sa vie privée.

Est-ce qu’elle le couvre? Est-ce qu’elle cherche des raisons de rester?
Par chance, maintenant que nous avons une loi contre les abus conjugaux, personne ne clamera plus que “si elle reste, c’est qu’elle doit aimer cela”, mais quoi qu’il en soit, qui veille, qui aide? Et quelle est le genre d’aide que Lola est prête à accepter?

————

How come numbers don’t get any smaller when we even have laws now that declare domestic violence as a crime? Surprise? A couple of years back, being abused by a partner was not an offense that could be reported to the police.Times have changed.
But there again, to be able to report, one needs to have something to report upon, and some women have been so used to being abused that they do not have a clear knowledge of how much is enough.

Lola has been living with her partner for four years, they have two children. He sometimes hits her when he is upset but most of the time, he is loving and kind. She is wondering if he is truly violent or just enerved by her attitude when he has too much on his plate. Will she ever go to the police? Did she report him last year when he grabbed her by the head and shook her causing the dislocation of her cervicals?

Of course, Lola can call 3919, and explain her situation, and hope that he will never ever find out that she dared to report him, even anonymously. But this will only be her option when she is ready to leap and bounce… which could be… never.
In the meantime, she lives in the terror of his outbursts, hoping that she can mascarade every attack to keep the veil down.

Is she covering him? Is she finding reasons to stay?
Luckily, now that we have the laws against abuse, no one will ever exclaim that “she must like it, if not she would leave him” but still, is anyone watching, helping? And which type of help is Lola willing to accept?

 
 

Violence against women

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En France, tous les trois jours, une femme meurt des mauvais traitements de son conjoint. Plusieurs hommes meurent aussi (environ 30 par an), mais un tiers d’entre eux etait celui qui abusait sa compagne et a été tué lors d’un episode de legitime défense. Ces chiffres sont effrayants, n’est-ce pas?

Nous sommes en 2011, nous avions un ministère des droits de la femme, mais bizarrement, je n’ai pas retrouvé trace d’un quelconque ministère dans le gouvernement actuel. A croire que l’on a baissé les bras.

Plus de 130 femmes sont mortes en 2006 en France, et malgré tout ce qui a été mis en place (notamment le très utile 3919), les chiffres ne diminuent pas.

Pourquoi?

——–

In France, every third day, one woman dies from the ill-treatment of her partner. A number of men die too (somewhere around 30 per year), but one third of them was the abuser who was terminated in a self-defence episode. These numbers are frightening, aren’t they?

It is now 2011, we have had a ministry to defend women’s right, but somehow, I have not found any mention of any kind of ministry in the actual government. Have we given up on them?

More than 130 women died in 2006 in France, and despite all that has been put in place (notably the very useful phone number 3919), the numbers do not diminish.

How come?

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in Home Violence, Opinions

 

The country where all “nos” are clear

Switzerland is very clean, very beautiful, very organised, very secure.. it is all “very” here. As long as you don’t bump into a problem, you are in paradise.

One day or another, as a foreigner, you are bound to fall into a trap. The kind of things that, back home, would not even cross your mind as “problem.” Forgot a bill, did not understand the recycling options, or bound to need an administation… This is when the “no” world opens up for you.

You can’t do this, nor can you do that, and all the options come with a  no-go sign… You are faced with a dilemma, all doors are closed in front of you and no one seems eager to give you the key. They hide behind the door because this is how “their country” (not yours! and now it is very obvious) is saved from trash like you. This is why their country works so well.

Now, as a foreigner in the country of holy cheese, you are all ready to understand and want to follow whatever rule is now totally unconceivable to you. So you ask the question. And you get the same answer over and over again… this is the way it is, this is the way it has been… and still no one will give you a clue how to get yourself out of it.

One example from the dog-owner world. I got a dog and thought (but I never really wondered about that before) that, since so many people have one, it will be an easy cruise.

I got a dog from a refuge. A lovely hound called Alba. I thought I’d give her a good life and she’d give us love. Nice exchange. It worked. She gave us so much love that she cried when she was alone at home. She cried so much apparently that she alarmed three neighbors. They complained and I received an accusation of “Animal Abuser” from my landlady who happens to live hours away from my village.
I immediately decided (from having been there before) that problems with the neighbors in Switzerland were not an option and contacted the association to give back my lovely princess with three broken hearts in the weigher.
I have three other neighbors who are dog lovers and came to me one by one to “help”. They did not want me to send her back… but I could not keep her either, because she could not be left alone a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon…They thought it was too much, they wanted to think of a solution “together.”

So, here we were again, NO to leaving her alone in the house, NO to sending her back… Now what?

It was hard enough to decide things for a dog that we loved with all our hearts, but then I had the animal haters on the one side and the animal lovers on the other, and they all said NO.

I had another “fun” experience on another night. We organised a good bye party by the lake (work event). The entry was paying. It was way over 30 degres in the shade.

I brought my dog because I could not leave her at home (and face complaints of being someone who abandons her dog at home while partying). At the door it said “no dogs” so I asked he guy if I could tie her near the gate, in the shade. NO. Leaving her in the car NO. Taking her in NO. Leaving her at home NO.
What then?

No matter what direction I turn here, there are times when all the venues are closed. It is frustrating, very upseting and to understand that things won’t budge and the only one who can give in is ME is infuriating.

My sweet Alba has gone back to the association. She left behind two very sad people. She took with her those sad eyes, and her traumatic past and went to try and settle somewhere else, if she ever can do that.

This is a failure on my part. To have thought that people would eventually understand. They won’t. There is a NO and it is unchangeable, no matter what one does.

They know better than me, and being patronised is something I do not like. Here it is the fashion. People patronise all foreigners, because “we don’t know better”, our countries are a mess, we need to be taught lessons. This is so annoying, because, no matter how I feel deep down, I do have to give in, because there are so many of them, and only one of me.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Opinions