Frank Schubert meets Francois Truffaut. Citizens in seventy-five French cities formed “flash mobs” with a distinctively new-wave aesthetic sensibility to protest prime minister Francois Hollande’s plan to redefine marriage:
In every case groups of men dressed in black and women in white separated into two groups symbolizing the fact that every child needs a mother and a father. Holding up bright pink signs saying : “Daddy, Mommy, you shouldn’t tell lies to children”, the “daddies” and “mommies” alternately helped a blundering bird – symbolizing a new-born child – to leave its nest without falling.
Of course, by bird, they mean a bird mime:
The hip pop aesthetic extended to the music choices:
Meanwhile Joe Dassin’s sixties hit, “Tout bébé a besoin d’une maman” (“Every baby needs a Mommie to be loved”), and Abba’s “Mamma Mia” were played over loudspeakers.
“To tell a child it has two daddies or two mommies is telling a lie. You should never lie to a child,” said Tugdual Derville, the movement’s general delegate.
“Children have a right to know their origins, they have a right to a daddy and a mommy and not respecting that when they are already hurt through being orphans is just adding further mistreatment,” he said.
Rather than assembling outside a church with rosaries and images of the Sacred Heart, these protestors met beneath the Grande Arche de la Défense with some Abba LP’s and a mime. They went, to borrow George Weigel’s phrasing, with the cube rather than the cathedral, and that is significant. The assertion made by such a choice is that marriage is not just a particular religious inheritance but rather something indispensable in every kind of society: Modernity has not outmoded marriage.
We can cheer this canniness while lamenting that faith has become less central to France’s national life. It also reflects a real truth, for opposition to the prime minister’s plans is coming not just from the traditional quarters of society. Another protest, scheduled for November 7, has been signed on to by several left-wing and LGBT organizations. American nightmares of French socialism and liberalism sometimes forget that it’s a country where there are organized socialists for life and gay men and women against gay marriage.