One of the ways in which I keep up with news from back home is through news feeds from the N.Y. Times and CNN, which I like because I can scan the headlines and read the articles that most interest me; it's far less "in your face" than the 24/7 news stations.
And every so often, intertwined with news on goings-on in the U.S. are articles on France -- and not just in the travel section. Like this article from the N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine that provides a lengthy (6 page) view on the upcoming French presidential elections which kick off next week. The article talks about one of France's bigger social problems -- the plight, both real and imagined, of the impoverished immigrant population in France, how the candidates (particularly Sarkozy) view the issue, and how that population views the candidates. If you've got the time to read all of it and are looking for insights (albeit from an American reporter at an American publication) into one aspect of modern French culture, you might find it interesting.
I can't say I am familiar enough with these issues to voice my own opinion on it, and I'm not a voting citizen of France so even if I had an opinion it would matter little. I will say that when I've spoken with both French people and the foreign ex-pats who've lived here a while (and who are voting citizens so are "legally" French if not French by birth), they say one thing consistently: that France has some very big issues and challenges and it's going to be difficult for any of these candidates to be the one who gets it really right. France is typically resistant to change, but change it must if it wants to stop the downward slide it seems to have been in for decades, in one way or another. There is much about life in France that is still good but make no mistake, there are big problems to be solved. And it's going to be painful for everyone because no one wants to be the one to give up anything and the prevailing view is often that the state should take care of everything.
I suppose the French election is not all that different, in some respects at least, from what we're facing with our own American elections in 2008, and the big challenges WE have in our society and globally, but we've got some time to really weed out a few of the many candidates in that race and then decide who we think will be fit for the job of running America.
How sad, though, that politics in our two countries (and I'm sure we're not the only ones) has gotten to the point where you feel like you're just choosing the best of a bad lot.