This week in France we've been bombarded with news about the International Monetary Fund and potential Socialist Party presidential candidate who is charged with rape. I swear his face kept coming in my mind Monday as I tried to fall asleep. I know it's been big news in the US, too, but in France it's like they're almost taking it personally.
The unspoken feeling is that this politician, respected for his work, but already known to play around, is being "subjected" to the "rough" US justice system. The journalists kept saying it was shocking to see Dominique Strauss-Kahn taken out of the police station in handcuffs or looking so haggard in front of the judge in his arraignment hearing. The next day the French journalists corrected themselves and said, it's just a bit different compared to the French system.
About the situation as a whole, I swear they even used the word "tragedy". And they meant more for this man's career or the French political scene. Later they got criticized by women's rights groups for not talking enough about the alledged victim.
I suppose I can see where the French are coming from. It is shocking to see someone who had so much power and influence being treated like a common criminal. But if it's proven that he is really guilty, that's what he is. And I remember how they showed Michael Jackson's mugshot, or Lindsay Lohan during her court appearances. That's just the way we do it in the US. There aren't so many special privileges in court for celebrities. (Although he is being treated differently in prison, it appears.)
He is however, innocent till proven guilty. My students Monday had a doubt about whether we had this system in the US, but I said yes, of course. I also taught them timely words like "to be charged with a crime", "to be convicted", "to plead not guilty." They said, on the one hand it is a shame that someone who is intellectually brilliant may no longer be on the economic scene. He apparently was one of the only folks really getting some European countries out of their debt situations. But none of that matters if in the end he is proven to be a sexual psychopath.
I've also found it funny that if I go on the CNN site I can read the criminal report in English in all the gory details, details that I haven't heard on the French news so far (at least not on prime time).
And it does make me smile a bit that the US is now accusing the French press of being too lax with this man, just kind of ignoring the fact that he was a womanizer and probably harassing female journalists over the years. Part of me finds it a great comeuppance for the French society that has maybe been a bit too, "aww, don't make a big fuss, he's just keen on the ladies". The Latin lover attitude has taken a beating this week!
Despite all the information we've been getting, 57% of the French think it's a conspiracy against this man. That he was set up by his opponents. It crossed my mind, too, but the more I hear about the victim, I'm starting to doubt it.
At any rate, it's kind of amusing to see how my country and my adopted one are reacting to all this.