Friday, October 17, 2008

Weighty Matters

As an American, there are some times when you just have to hang your head in shame at the stands that our leaders take and the issues that consume them. Sometimes it's big things (like the war in Iraq) and other times it's the excessive amount of attention that gets paid to issues like flag burning. The latest controversy burning here in France, however, makes me realize that we're not alone in the world in our fixation on symbols. Earlier this week, there was a friendly soccer match at the Stade de France between France and Tunisia, friendly in the sense, I believe, that it did not count in the standings for the World Cup qualification or anything else. There was a big Tunisian crowd in the stands, many of them now living in France, and many of these folks chose to hiss and boo when the French players were announced as well as during the playing of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem. President Sarkozy blew a gasket, as he is wont to do, announcing that if this happens again, the match will be cancelled. Now his minister of sports is making the rounds of the talk shows and newspapers to get the message out. The underlying issue of the alienation of immigrant youth remains untouched to say nothing of what will happen when 50,000 spectators are suddenly told to leave the stadium. But then it's not the first time that Sarkozy has spoken first and thought later. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this one.


Isabelle said...

I'm not particularly patriotic, and I don't think that the French in general are either (here you don't see French flags in front of houses, or people wearing patriotic tee-shirts like I've seen many times in the U.S.).
BUT hearring the Marseillaise being hissed and booed really hurts! It's not the first time this has happened during a soccer match, and each time it's been during games against Algeria, Morocco and now Tunisia.
I know that there still are big contentious issues between France and its former colonies/protectorates, but the people who hiss and boo are now living in France, and insulting their new country.
I can not imagine the reaction of these people had the Tunisian anthem been hissed: probably very excessive!
So I'm completely backing our president on this issue, we can't let these people act like it's no big deal...

Anne said...

Isabelle: It's good to hear your perspective on this! Guess we'll see how it will play out.

Starman said...

Hissing and booing the Marseillaise (or any other national anthem) has got to be considered bad form. I'm afraid I have to agree with M. Sarkozy on this one.

Ronnie said...

Can anyone comment on what gives Sarkozy the authority to do this? To an outsider, the news accounts make it sound like a capricious act. Could he shut a grocery store if people say they don't like foie gras?

Alain said...

Ronnie, foie gras and the national anthem do not enjoy the same status

Contrary to what you may think, it is not even the national dish...

DiaryofWhy said...

I happened to catch this on the news here, and I was amazed by the amount of time dedicated to the story. They explained the incident, showed footage, interviewed some of the offenders, and just when I thought they would move on to something else- nope! Still talking about it. The incessant re-hashing of the issue seemed a bit over the top to me, as an outsider, but it is interesting to see what the French consider a serious injustice.

But then again, does anyone remember when Roseanne Barr belched the American national anthem?

Anonymous said...

Might the booing have something to do with the racist, xenophobic lyrics (e.g. "sang impur") glorified in the national hymn? Something tells me it was more likely just poor sportsmanship, but then don't some of the members of Les Bleus refuse to sing the anthem during their own games?

Adam said...

Perhaps it was just because Laam (the artist chosen to sing the anthems) was completely out of tune!
I actually live in an area with a very large Tunisian community (Belleville) and its a model of integration. The old Jewish and Muslim communities that existed previously in Tunisia live side by side here with almost no problems at all. I think the booing at the game is just the kids idea of fun, and not much should be read into it at all. It's just their way of saying that 'tonight we'll be supporting Tunisia'.

ronnie said...

I'm still curious as to how the President could independently make rules like this. With my poor French I tried to read the news stories concerning the incident. It appears that the government is pressuring the people who run the football leagues to make such a rule. They are a bit resistant because they envision some problems in making 80,000 angry and disappointed spectators leave the stadium, a point that would seem to have some validity. Wouldn't you hate to be the person who has to make the decision how many whistles is too many? And what if the spectators wait until the anthem is over and then whistle and boo?

Jonnifer said...

Whistling during anyone's national anthem is bad form but we shouldn't forget that it is just a symbol. I'm curious to know what the motivations behind this behavior are. That's where the president should get involved. Could be interesting, especially if you're running the country, ya know? And remind me again why we have to endure all this patriotic balleyhoo at sports events in the first place?

Mrs C said...

I was watching the game with my kids and was shocked. Really.

And I have to say it: "Chapeau" to Laam for really belting it and not missing a note. And despite the loud whistling, she seemed to be in tune.

Whistling during the singing of the national anthem, a national symbol, is beyond the pale. My kids asked me why there was whistling in the first place. They couldn't understand why it was taking place in terms of the national anthem but they understood that it was bad. As bad as spitting on someone else.

When I visited Tunisia a couple of years ago, any number of the young fellows in that country would have been glad of having a chance at life in France. The "voyous" here just have no freaking idea on how lucky they are. Despite their sense of alienation, real or imagined.

It is a question of respect for all nations and so, have got to agree with Sarko on this one.

Jonathan Hayes said...

It's a difficult issue, obviously.

But I'm something of a civil libertarian absolutist, and a pragmatist. It's certainly insulting to boo a national anthem, but it's also insulting to boo a referee's call, or to boo a player. But I feel that people should have the right to express their beliefs, even if in this case I agree with Adam that these aren't deeply-held beliefs, but kids having fun.

Now, of course, it'll become a point of pride in certain communities to boo the Marseillaise - Sarko has constructed a straw man that he can get points for attacking.

And on the pragmatic level, as has been pointed out, telling 50,000 voyous to go home is hardly asking a group of girl scouts to sing "Kumbayah".

I'm against a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning in the US, and I think Sarkozy is stirring up something that should best be ignored. The man is getting increasingly Canute-like.

Anne said...

Well, it seems like I have finally hit a chord on this blog! Thanks to all for your willingness to engage in a thoughtful conversation on a controversial issue. We'll see how it plays out the next time this happens.

Anonymous said...

je suis Française. Je suis née en France et je suis noir. Mais, pourquoi? quand l'on me dit bonjour! la question que l'on me pose ensuite est: de quel origine es tu? Pourquoi est on surpris quand, je répond Française?
Quand je regarde la télévision française je n'y vois pas mon reflet. sauf quand on parle de famine de guerre et de d'immigration clandestine. Comme tout le monde je travaille, je paye des impôts et je consomme. pourquoi est il s'y difficile pour les publicitaires de concevoir une publicité mettant en scène une ou un Noir, Asiatique... .
je pourrai vous donnez d'autres exemples il y en a tellement.
Quand on se balade dans Paris, on peut y voir une grande mixité: couple noir et blanc, blanc et asiatique... .
J'aime mon pays mais m'aime t il autant que moi je l'aime?
ils ont sifflé la Marseillaise. pourquoi l'ont ils fait? Se sentent ils si mal dans leur pays qu'ils en viennent à insulté les symboles. Ou ne savent ils pas ou est leur place? c'était peut être un jeu?
des joueurs noir se font insultés de singe lors de certain Match de foot, une région française c'est vue insulté lors d'un match de foot... . Que faut il en penser? Je vous laisse trouver une réponse.

Pour ma par lors d'un match on ne devrait entonné que l'hymne du vainqueur.

Anne said...

Anonymous: Thank you for adding your views to the mix. The core issues you raise are not going to be dealt with by simply stopping a football match.

Anonymous said...

il est évident que stopper les matchs est de loin la meilleur des solutions.
mais, je reste persuadé que, comme lors des jeux olympique il vaut mieux valoriser le gagnant
le problème avec le foot est que l' on tend à oublier que c'est un sport, un jeux, un pur moment de plaisir
et non une guerre.

merci pour la qualité de votre blog

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