As I was walking home last week, I was greeted by a not-so-friendly message from the FNJ — the youth arm of Jean-Marie Le Pen's ultra-nationalist party le Front National (FN). Within the stencil of la belle France are the words "AIMEZ-LÀ OU QUITTEZ-LÀ." In English that translates to "France: Love it or Leave it."
If these eager young nationalists were talking to all French citizens — "Hey compatriots, love it or leave it!" — the slogan might be crass, but not terribly offensive. Mais non, they are addressing immigrants, a group of people that, by the FN's definition, includes French citizens whose parents were born in France.
How do I know this message is targeted at immigrants and their offspring and not all of the people who call France home? First, because the FN would never tell those that they consider to be "les vrais français" to love it or leave it because, as every French man and woman admits, the French are world-class râleurs (complainers) and if every français who complained about the country had to leave, there would be nobody left. Second, the FNJ's former slogan, "Les Françaises aux Français" (French Women for French Men), gives their true intentions away, as does the current slogan of their parent organization: "We defend our colors." (If the words don't say it strongly enough, the image does: the raised fist of a Caucasian male, clutching the French flag.)
I have never been a fan of scrawled profanity in public spaces, but this time I was rather glad to see an English speaker's blunt response to les FN Jeunes and I was even more heartened by the poetic response in Spanish: Without borders, without flags.
It's a nice sentiment. Unfortunately, with the debate on l'identité nationale (national identity) raging in France, and the country's regional elections approaching (March 14 and 21), it is not one that will be heard often.
FAST FACTS ON WORLD IMMIGRATION
Country Percentage of international migrants*
United States 13.5
Source: United Nations, http://un.org.
* The UN's definition of an "international migrant" is a person who was born in a country different from the one in which they live.