France: After Lockdown, the Street

When the lockdown—le confinement—finally began to lift on May 11, giving way to a tenuous period of reopening—le déconfinement—Paris looked the same. And yet it wasn’t. Over the course of that long, strange April—during which France recorded nearly 20,000 Covid-19 deaths—something had shifted. The coronavirus has caused a reckoning here, one of the most profound the country has undergone since World War II. It was already in the throes of upheaval when the virus hit, after the Yellow Vest street protests and strikes against Macron’s efforts to cut back state services and restructure pensions. The situation in France today is born of a combustive collision between theory and practice, ideal and real, that stems largely from the country’s persistent sense of itself as an exemplary nation, which may or may not withstand the test of reality.
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