France

Smells Like Citizen Spirit

It means: “true democracy, let’s vote ourselves.” That is, the graffiti. Interesting choice of words, at least I thought so. They stuck out to me, looked particularly brazen. I wonder who wrote it, some somebody willing to stand out in a public space and deface a wall with their latest brain-picking. Despite curiosity, you never figure out who the person is. You get close, and out of a dozen or so lookalikes, there’s bound to be a trackable progress going in enough circles to convince you you’re getting somewhere good.

As most of you have guessed, it’s French. The “L’s” give it away at a first glance, but that it’s so attention-grabbing and straightforward also points to a French origin. It embodies everything I admire in the French people: a stubborn determination to be heard while retaining their cultural elegance. Nobody fights like them, nobody, because nobody’s got near as fierce a spirit. Spirit flows through all of those words splashed across the wall, and it’s important to remember spirit doesn’t emerge of nothing.

A member of the Yellow Vests (gilet jaunes) Movement sprayed the graffiti. You may not have guessed this, but I imagine the majority of readers had a gut feeling. I’ve been meaning to cover these guys for a while, if only because few people are. Last November, they burst into international attention, and the gamut of media churned out story after story on their shocking antics. Public defacements and mass protesting defined them; of course, the coverage was accurate, in parts. I read most of those stories, understanding the plight of the French workers and wishing for their success. Not two or three months later, all American coverage stopped, leaving me to scramble after foreign outlets for any new updates. BBC had its bits and pieces, but the French outlets either neglected to report the events or showcased them through biased perspectives. Unfortunate, yes, but it was not an unexpected action; it happens everywhere, so we have to sometimes seek out objectivity ourselves.

The movement has lasted for over seven months, and it still appears to be going strong. I can’t speak as to the inner climate. I have no idea what the people are experiencing from day to day–and this is perhaps my most important point, I hope the best for all sides. Too often, we lose ourselves to the inevitable tug-of-war ever festering in these kinds of movements. We focus on the aspect of success so much that we forget our own limits in reaching it. It goes either way, the end, settling in comfortable victory or exhausted failure, with no room for a middle ground.

To me, the graffiti represents an attempted middle ground. People will argue and battle; they’ll break ideological codes to ensure they are on the prevailing side before the whole situation resolves itself in forced silence. Not everyone’ll spray out graffiti, but everyone’ll read the message.

One message means more than a million broken noses.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

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