The view from Paris
I have been in France since before the first “Yellow Vest” protests started a month ago. I’ve gotten many emails from friends in the Methow and elsewhere asking about how it has affected me and whether I was safe.
The simple answer is that they have had very little direct effect on daily life, and only on Saturdays. It has still become a big part of the national dialog, as well with French friends. The underlying issues of inequity affect nearly everyone.
The city demonstrations have been limited to a few, high-visibility areas in Paris and other French cities. This is not obvious when looking at TV news or reading newspapers, at least from what I hear from people in the United States. Good old-fashioned sensationalism (though not “fake news”) is alive and well.
My neighborhood is close to the Bastille, the former site of a hated, royal medieval fortress/prison. There are often demonstrations there. Not so much this time. The main Paris focus of the Yellow Vests were the stores of the rich, particularly along the famous Champs Elysées boulevard.
Initially, the Saturday protests were designed to block rural traffic. But after the first one, the angry but mostly peaceful protesters were joined by the “usual suspects.” These are the extremists from the Left, Right, and Anarchists. But despite the endless press coverage of fancy shop windows broken and cars set afire, there was actually very little damage done for a city the size of Paris.
To summarize and perhaps oversimplify: The demonstrations started out with rural people protesting increases in gas taxes. It morphed into a general protest over declining living standards for the middle class and rural lower middle class. As elsewhere in the world, the French rich are getting richer. The middle and lower classes are not.
The Macron government is viewed as being most favorable to the rich. Sound familiar? Only there, the lower/middle classes protest against him. Here, they still cheer for Trump.
President Macron made a few concessions that satisfied no one. Still, the protests are slowing for now.
Randy Brook, Twisp
War and peace
Last week about 20 of us stood on the highway with signs for a “Happy Holidays Protest Against Genocide.” The news tells us that at least 85,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 have starved to death in the past year due to the U.S.-supported war on and blockade of Yemen by Saudi Arabia.
A similar number — about 80,000 people — have been killed in Yemen by four years of relentless bombing. Most of the bombs are American-made. A further 8 million people are in imminent danger of starvation.
The United States is currently dropping bombs on human beings living in at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen (many robotic drone strikes on the latter two). War and weapons are big business in the United States; Boeing has several multi-billion dollar contracts to supply Saudi Arabia with weapons, one of the most corrupt, anti-democratic countries in the world.
The United Stated spends almost a trillion dollars a year on war and weapons. The United States, in the words of war veteran Mike Hastie, is “a non-stop killing machine.” In terms of war, the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans; in term of killing innocent, beautiful human beings, Obama is as bad as Trump.
Unfortunately after all this the legacy we are leaving our children is a world full of nuclear weapons. It seems to me we have not thought all this through very well.
Dana Visalli, Twisp