Way back before 9/11, I started boycotting French products because I was angry at France's anti-Israel foreign policy and the way they were ignoring or accepting the rise in anti-Semitic attacks within France itself. But it was hard, because while I can live without French wine, it's much more difficult to live without French cheese, and I found out that it's really quite difficult to find any semi-fancy soap that isn't made in France either. It was also hard because I love France. I've probably spent a good six months there between various trips, and I've travelled to all parts of the country (and have I mentioned the eating of the cheese? )
Well, I gave up on the boycott long ago (not too long after America spiraled into the absurdity which was Freedom Fries) but I was still pleasantly surprised when Sarkozy was elected this past May. Part of it was because his name is so much fun to say, but most of it was because he is the first pro-Israel (and pro-US; they often seem to go hand in hand don't they?) leader of France in a long time. And while normally I'd shy away from a conservative politician, France's version of liberalism is too close to socialism for my taste - while I like the idea of working 35 hours a week and spending 6 weeks in the Riviera, I think it's a bit much to consider it a right, especially when your economy is going nowhere.
All this to say, I was interested to hear the news coverage a couple weeks ago about Sarkozy's initial attempts to scrap special retirement privileges for, among other people, miners, train drivers, and opera singers. NPR covered the transit strike several times during the day, and All Things Considered in particular did a good job of interviewing some union workers about how unfair it was and how Sarkozy was trying to ruin what makes France French, but always giving perspective by including folks who disagreed, and mentioning that the vast majority of Frenchmen thought these privileges should be removed. Of course, all news stories took the opportunity to mention that on the same day as the strike, Sarkozy admitted that he and his wife were having issues and in fact their divorce was now final. It made sense to report on this - after all, Sarkozy was having a really bad day and it was interesting, if unfortunate, that these two events would happen simultaneously. But I was sure that NPR was focused on the transit issues and how they would affect France much more than Sarkozy's divorce proceedings, as a serious news station should be. Imagine my surprise when, for the next two weeks, I didn't hear a single word about what was happening in France. What was the outcome of the strike? Will this stop Sarkozy's reforms? What's going he going to try to tackle next? If I want to find this out, apparently I can't do so on NPR.