Rage versus resignation: France boils over while Detroit sleeps
In France, factory workers are holding some factory bosses hostage, egging others and taking to the streets in the millions.
In Detroit, a café is holding a 10-day music marathon while an entire city and region passively wait for leaders to emerge in a city and an auto industry that has had no real leaders for decades.
Come on, people of Detroit. Your city was founded by the French. Access that inner truculence. The union isn't doing it for you anymore. Your employer's lobbying bucks are not doing it for you anymore. Obama just fired the CEO of GM and wants your company to survive, yes, but smaller. Much smaller.
That may or may not include you. So come on. Get mad, get even. Just snap out of this funk.
French workers are, in general, aggravating. They get benefits Americans can only dream of -- short work weeks, long vacations, cushy retirements -- even if you are a longstanding UAW auto worker. And the French worker protected these perks even at the cost of the greater French economy, causing both political and practical gridlock at a moment's notice.
France always seemed to shut down the moment I crossed the border, the trains and buses braking to a halt to protest a government initiative to allow employers to fire, let's say, employees who refuse to show up for work.
Incroyable! What an affront!
Meanwhile, in the industrial American Midwest, people went about quietly building cars and building lives, enduring the slow times like acts of nature, waiting for the factories to rev up again. And they always did rev up, at least for the car companies. The American auto workers were never forced into the same flexibility/uncertainty as the rest of the American workforce, but, still, they were not French either.
And American workers haven't caused anyone a bit of trouble for decades, no French tourists forced to miss plane flights home or stare sleepless around a railroad waiting room through an eternal winter night.
But, now, you have to reconsider. The French economy was supposed to fall apart because its workers would not adjust. America would thrive for its flexibility.
So wouldn't you rather have been French all this time, enjoying all those perks, getting those days off to go on a general strike, to lock up your jerk of a boss, to sing songs with a million people?
It is not too late, though, Detroit. Who cares if the auto bailout is massively unpopular? Who cares if America likely does not need three big car companies?
And, yes, Obama will probably declare your employer bankrupt even if you do march on Ford Field by the millions. But you are making it easy on him. In fact, as he hits London with all its G20 protests, Obama is probably giving thanks that you are so docile.
Of course in France, the politicians will likely cave in to the workers' demands in some way that only deepens the economic crisis, that finally pulls France down after all these years of dire warning.
But what do you care? Your life is about to be ruined, and it is not your fault.
Please, don't go quietly.