France finds its soul

One hundred years ago France, the center of the world for the previous thousand years, suddenly experienced the darkest harbingers. The new big screen brought forth a golem, Yeats saw a rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem, the Irish poets were dreaming of rivers flowing with blood, but 1912 saw the most prescient and darkly foreboding specter. Marcel Duchamp had a shattered cryptic vision of a nude woman descending a circular staircase in 1912, as if France and all of Christendom was about to lose all form and descend beneath the waves into the collective unconscious. It was a perfect Zen observation of what was ahead for Europe, its feminine spirit shattered and descending into the maelstrom. The death of Europe would surely follow, and surely it did. But today, France might be seen as ascending the stairs.

It makes no difference that the winning candidate is socialist. The vote yesterday in France was a vote for decentralization. It marks the end of almost every abstraction that has afflicted France since 1912: the Nazi movement, Stalin and the Popular Front, the American post-war cultural dominance, the soft, hippie cultural totalitarianism known in our time as globalism, the paternalistic, Pétainistic Sarkozy realm, the austere, collectivist vision of faux Europe that is the EU. It suggests the return of France to itself.

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"You are not going to determine only the destiny of France, but the direction of Europe too," François Hollande said in his closing campaign remarks.

It might also mark the return of France to the center of actual Europe.