Au soleil, sous la pluie
À midi ou à minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées...
My dad liked to bellow along with Joe Dassin's monster francopop hit whenever it came on the radio as we were motoring from Paris south, and all these years later I still know every word of it. It's actually an obscure English song called "Waterloo Road" (a very different kind of thoroughfare) that Pierre Delanoë wrote an exuberantly buoyant French lyric for:
Come rain, come shine
At midday or midnight
There's everything you want on the Champs-Elysées...
And also some things you don't want - like Islamic terrorism. The body count in Thursday's attack was low, but the symbolic power of a man opening fire on one of the most famous streets in the world was huge. It came a couple of days before a presidential election in which four of the five main candidates are competing within margin-of-error territory, an unusually high percentage of voters remain undecided, and nobody knows how the latest jihad spree will impact whose numbers. Before they became a pop paean to urban grooviness, the Elysian Fields were what you passed through en route to the hereafter: this week's "known wolf" appears to have taken the street name somewhat literally, as the intellectually undernourished warriors of Islam are wont to do. For us old Greek students, Elysium is a blessed land where compared to anywhere else, as Homer wrote, "life is easiest for men". And so it's supposed to go in the heart of Paris, too:
Le cœur ouvert
"I stroll along the avenue, my heart open to the unknown..." Every boulevardier wants to live like that in the vibrant multicultural west. But sometimes you're so busy opening up your heart you don't notice that you've lost your mind. I spent much of last year's summer of terror in France - mainly in the south, but, when I eventually got to Paris, I found it a sad and diminished place, patroled by a twitchy French gendermarie (and military) exhausted after almost a year working permanent "state of emergency" shifts. Yet, even without spasms of terror, the city feels in a state of decay. It's ever less "Parisian", becoming instead a municipality bifurcated between a few very wealthy French natives and the vast army of poor immigrants who serve them. The pathologies of les banlieues creep ever closer to the center.
Except on the Champs-Elysées. Cutting across to meet an old friend for lunch, I noted a few more multinational emporia than there used to be, but only the upscale ones. Life was good, at least here:
Tu m'as dit
Dans un sous-sol
Avec des fous...'
"You told me, 'I'm meeting in a cellar with some lunatics...'" She means a fashionable dive where crazy hipsters play yeh-yeh songs on their guitars until dawn. But the fellows meeting in cellars in St Denis and Clichy-sous-Bois have different plans. Thursday's killer was 39 years old. That's almost geriatric for the jihad. In France's (and western Europe's) population, the demographic cohort ten years younger has a significantly higher proportion of Muslims, and the cohort a decade younger than that a higher proportion still. Which means that there will be, statistically, a higher number of men who wish to do what Thursday's killer did - and open fire on the careless metropolitan jollity of the Champs-Elysées.
During my time in France, I made a mordant joke that, where once Beirut was "the Paris of the East", Paris was in danger of turning into the Beirut of the West. Not quite, not yet, but where else is that demographic ratchet headed? Late in the evening, as the waiters brought last cognacs and upturned the chairs on nearby tables, I asked almost everyone the same question: "What's the happy ending here?" The sophisticates had no answer. The French prime minister and at least one presidential candidate Gallicly shrug and say: Get used to it. Get used to what? A terror attack once in a while? Or an increasing rate thereof? Or, as demography works its remorseless logic, less and less terrorism (because it's no longer necessary) but more and more smaller and subtler curtailments of la vie parisienne - until there's nothing left.
One candidate, Marine Le Pen, wants less Muslim immigration. Most of the others won't even go that far - although, in truth, it's not that far at all, notwithstanding that it would require withdrawal from the European Union even to attempt it. But, without an end to mass immigration, there is only demographic arithmetic.
Last fall, I made what turned out to be my final appearance on Bill O'Reilly's now canceled ratings blockbuster, "The O'Reilly Factor", to discuss terror and Islam. As I observed to the host:
There is a crude arithmetic here, Bill, which is that the more Muslims you have, the more terrorism you have. So that France, Belgium and Germany have very high Muslim populations - and they have a lot of terrorism. When you're in Poland and the Czech Republic, they have very few Muslims - so they don't have terrorism.
Click below to watch the full exchange:
And if you need cheering up after that, here's the irrepressible Zaz and her recent version of M Delanoë's hymn to a boulevard of (broken?) dreams:
~Mark will be discussing the French election with Ainsley, Steve and Brian on "Fox & Friends", live across America on Monday morning just after 7am Eastern.
Also: Steyn talks to the author Andrew Klavan about culture and politics, and introduces a live performance of his favorite Leonard Cohen song, all on this weekend's Mark Steyn Weekend Show.