Sunday, November 6


This story in today's edition of the Washington Post (registration required) is just a bit confusing in explaining the reasons for the ongoing, widespread rioting in and around Paris.

Compare this ...

"It's not a political revolution or a Muslim revolution," said Rezzoug. "There's a lot of rage. Through this burning, they're saying, 'I exist, I'm here.' "

With this ...

One of Rezzoug's "kids" -- the countless youths who use the sports facilities he oversees -- is a husky, French-born 18-year-old whose parents moved here from Ivory Coast. At 3 p.m. on Saturday, he'd just awakened and ventured back onto the streets after a night of setting cars ablaze.

"We want to change the government," he said, a black baseball cap pulled low over large, chocolate-brown eyes and an ebony face. "There's no way of getting their attention. The only way to communicate is by burning."

So is it a political revolution of sorts, or not? Are they storming the barricades or just burning and looting? And are the antecedents of the rioting in the Muslim immigrant community and, if so, is there culpability within that community or is the mayhem all about government indifference to poverty, unemployment, and chronic social issues?

The WaPo article continues:

For the young men of Le Blanc-Mesnil and hundreds in other impoverished suburbs, one man represents all they find abhorrent in the French government: Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been considered the country's leading contender in the 2007 presidential elections. Last month, he recommended waging a "war without mercy" against criminals and other troublemakers in the poor areas.

A week later, two Muslim teenagers from the northern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois were electrocuted in a power substation where they were hiding from police who they believed were chasing them. French officials have said police were not pursuing the youths. Their deaths triggered the violence that quickly spread, particularly when Sarkozy called the perpetrators of the violence "scum" and "thugs."

Additional excerpts follow:

Rezzoug, the caretaker, said he has seen local youths struggle with deep personal conflicts caused by their dual cultures. "They go to the mosque and pray," he said. "But this is France, so they also drink and party."

"They also are out to prove to their parents and brothers and uncles they can't take it any more," he said. "They're burning the places where they play, where they sit -- they're burning their own playpens."

Le Blanc-Mesnil is not a community where youths aspire to spend their lives. There is none of the glamour that most of the world associates with Paris, just a 25-minute drive or train ride away. It is an industrial city of boxy apartment complexes and strip malls. In a nation where unemployment has hovered at 10 percent this year, the rates are here four to five times as high among people under 25.

"We feel rejected, compared to the kids who live in better neighborhoods," said Nasim, a chunky 16-year-old with braces and acne. "Everything here is broken down and abandoned. There's no place for the little kids to go."

Several of the older youths fingered pockets bulging with plastic packets of hashish for sale or trade. As they read local newspaper accounts of their previous night's exploits, they began discussing Saturday night's plans with more of an air of boredom than a commitment to a cause.

"We don't have the American dream here," said Rezzoug, as he surveyed the clusters of young men. "We don't even have the French dream here."

So is this all about boredom, booze, drugs, rumor-mongering, and James Dean-style angst, or is it a Muslim-based idealogical rift with the French government that has broken out into anarchy?

I'm no wiser for having read the Washington Post.

FOLLOW-UP: Little Green Footballs provides the telling take on this story.

FOLLOW-UP II: More from the Associated Press (AP) via MSNBC. Somehow AP's "urban unrest" theme or WaPo's "fight for recognition" leave me scratching my head and not altogether convinced.

FOLLOW-UP III" Jayson at Polipundit is more on the mark than the MSM he appropriately chides.

FOLLOW-UP IV: Tim F. at Balloon Juice puts up a post that merits reading and reflection, and as a counterpoint to the common view of the "M" problem in France and much of Europe.