Anyway, this is the not the story I want to tell. The story I want to tell is this: I opened my window to a big commotion outside, police helicopters circling above our apartment building, people yelling, in flight. I grabbed my flip video to record the sudden chaos in my normally calm bourgeois neighborhood. A group of teenagers started running down rue Victor Hugo. I had no idea what I was filming, who these people were, why they were running, so I just filmed. Seconds later, riot police followed, police cars ensued. Here's what I filmed.
Later that evening, after posting my video on Youtube, I googled the day's events and found another video, filmed simultaneously to mine (or a few minutes before) from 5 blocks away and a different vantage point.
One hour after posting my video, I began receiving hate mail on my Youtube page, I mean venomous comments directed personally at me. I was shocked. The rage that was expressed in these comments frightened me. Now I am not that shielded or naive, and I suppose after owning a store and being in the public eye for many years I should be a bit more thick-skinned, but as these comments rolled in, I was really upset. There was also frightening racist hate mail being exchanged between the viewers, people that I consider to be extreme on both sides. Is this my beloved France, I wondered? I decided to write a defense and address my critics and both extremes:
"I do realize that these are not the "strikers," that they are just young, angry kids. I am actually sympathetic to their situation, just not supportive of how they show their frustration. For those of you who are anti-American, anti-Maghreb, anti-immigrant or anti-children of immigrants, expand your horizons and get to know the people behind the stereotypes. Ignorance has always been the biggest threat to mankind. Compassion + kindness is what we all need to get through these times."
More hate mail, more comments about how stupid I am and how I should just go home to the states. Nice. Scary.
The week unfolded: more violence, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to innocent store and car owners, bystanders pushed to the ground and trampled, helicopters circling overhead, CRS police with machine guns patrolling the streets. It was surreal, like a scene from a movie, dramatic. And the crescendo was Friday night, when hundreds of "extreme right" youths descended into the streets, all dressed in black, covered with black masks, to confront the young disenfranchised looters (casseurs,) filmed in the video. They chanted la Marseillaise, France's national anthem and were then loaded into buses by the armed CRS. It all seemed so ironic, this random extreme patriotism mixed with random violence and hatred. It made me think of this prewar scene in Casablanca. Yikes. I am worried for mankind.