Questions must now be asked about the future of the French secularist modelby Christine Ockrent / January 13, 2015 / Leave a comment
On 11th January in France, a nation took to the streets, moved to the core by the massacre of journalists, the murder of policemen and the slaughter of Jews. In a country so obsessed with itself, endlessly questioning its history and its purpose in the world, dissecting its own decline and fall with undisguised relish, the traumatic few days that followed the murderous assault on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have produced a miracle of sorts: the French have come to terms with themselves. Marvelling at their own resolve and energised by shared indignation, they stopped moaning long enough to celebrate basic democratic values and realised in the process how strongly bound to one another they actually are.
Although they are disillusioned with politics, the French people prevailed upon their politicians to behave, at least for a few days. The Socialist Party almost fumbled the opportunity, quarrelling over the participation of the Front National (FN) in the huge march in Paris, before President François Hollande made it clear that all were free to take part. In the event, the leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen, who had expected (and perhaps hoped) to be ostracised by the mainstream political elite, decided to demonstrate on her own in a small town in Provence, a region that has become the FN’s home turf. In cities, towns and villages across France, 3.7m people marched without incident.
The French people also discovered that they have a President. The man they elected to the Elysée in 2012 may have been the most unpopular incumbent of the post in recent history, he may be blamed for the economic slowdown, mass unemployment and punitive taxes, and he may have been ridiculed for not knowing how to play the part of the Republican monarch—but his performance in such dramatic circumstances was faultless. The same can be said of Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, the Minister of the Interior.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his rivals on the centre-right also caught the mood and contributed to an unprecedented moment of national unity. The French political…