Well, dear readers, it’s been just over a month since my beloved Paris was subject to atrocious acts of terrorism. Having been away at the time, I was genuinely worried what kind of Paris I would come home to. While life does continue on here, there have been some very real changes to the way we live it.
The first difference I experienced happened when I arrived back in the country. As soon as we stepped off the plane from Australia the police were waiting on the air bridge to check our passports. They were checked again when we reached the customs area only one hundred metres further on. It seemed a little excessive but this was only a week after the attacks. I’m not sure if this is still occurring but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is still in force.
There has also been a visible increase in security forces, in Paris itself, with quite a deal more heavily armed police and soldiers stationed all throughout the city. Ever since I’ve lived here I’ve been used to a strong protective presence. Indeed, I had become rather blasé to the sight of them. Nowadays, however, it is hard not to notice, as they seem to be almost everywhere one looks.
Even everyday activities like shopping and going to the cinema have been affected. On a recent trip to the Galleries Lafayette I was a little dismayed to see that every entrance had multiple security guards, all wielding metal detectors. They were searching customers’ bags as well as asking people to open their coats. A similar procedure is in place at my local cinema – although they do forgo the metal detectors. It is troubling, but it is undoubtedly just as much to reassure the public about their safety, as it is a deterrent to possible attackers.
The State of Emergency declared by the French government has already been extended once and may be again. It does raise interesting questions about civil liberties as it gives police more powers, such as the ability to search anywhere they choose without a warrant. Personally, I have nothing to hide and I wouldn’t mind a bunch of muscled me in uniform bursting into my home but I do understand how easily such powers could be subject to abuse. For instance, a political commentator friend of mine recently lost his weekly radio job because the Minister of the Interior expressed undue influence on the station, as he’d been unhappy at what had been broadcast.
Naturally, there has been an increase in conservatism, with anti-Islamic and anti-immigration views becoming freely expressed more and more often. This has been highlighted by the spectacular rise in popularity of the Front National – basically French fascists. The recent elections showed an unprecedented level of support for their fear mongering ways. Fortunately, their candidates were defeated in the second round by high voter turnout and Socialist pulling candidates from certain districts to allow the Conservatives to win instead – in a rare show of politicians working together for the common good.
Life here may be more reserved and cautious, but I’m sure that, given time, the City of Light can find a way back out of the darkness and will reclaim its former sparkling self.