06 January 2006

The Copy Left

Sunday, it'll be ten years that François Mitterand is dead. Ten years since I bid my farewell to this man that I truly and profundly admired and cherished for the change he brought to France. The evening of his death, I went with Renaud to the Place de la Bastille, a traditional meeting place for socialist celebrations and queued under the rain to enter one of the many white tents available where you could write some words in the notebooks on display. I don't remember what I wrote, to be honest. But strangely enough, I remember what Renaud wrote down in his own particular humorous and sharp style: "Say hi to Jaurès!".
I think I probably wrote something about the night of his 1st election in 1981. I was only 6 but I knew that something important had happened. I was with my parents at my aunt's apartment in the very bourgeois 6th district. And as the image of our new president appeared on TV, the air got filled with joy and laughter.
In 1988, the day after he got elected again, a classmate carried a poster from his campaign in school, in victory. Of course, the headmaster asked him quickly to put it down because political signs are forbidden in school but I do remember the uncontrollable smile on his face as if the day could allow to be slightly permissive.
Despite the huge criticism, sometimes highly justified, that followed his 2 terms, I remain strongly attached to our former president, and maybe nostalgic. It's always with sorrow that I watch images from him: much to my embarrassment, I can't help but cry when I see a documentary about him.
I grew-up with him in the background, in a very culturally creative environment that got possible only because he was in power. If you're not familiar with contemporary french history, you should just know that there was a France before and after 1981. Before 1981, it was daddys' owned companies, with women - when they would work - bringing coffees to their patriarcal bosses, it was 3 state-owned TV channels, it was death penalty, it was bourgeoisie values carried by the government. After 1981, it was Europe, it was Grace Jones and Jean-Paul Goude, it was free radio, it was a series of strong social actions, it was gay-friendly and cosmopolitan.
Today, by the way, you can feel only but a strong regression in France: the right wing is in power since 4 years and I've the impression that if they could make us more forget that there had ever been a left-wing at the head of the state one day, they would. The air is filled with fear of the other, good old secure values like marriage, family, bio food and career, and growing gaps between people who watch TV and people who dream to be on it.
What a shame Mary Jane.

-- Joëlle.

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