A drawn portrait of Lola and flowers are seen in front of the collegiate church "St Omer" during the funeral of Lola on October 24, 2022 in Lillers, France. Picture Credit: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
Artillery Row

Lola and the silence

French politicians cannot face facts

The silence is perfectly pitched. It leaves no room for doubt. It cannot have happened. It must not have happened. It might not exist at all. Perhaps, this was all just a dream — a very, very bad dream, but a dream nonetheless.

Lola is dead. But of her death, of her torturer and executioner, not a word ought to be piped. Tears shall flow one way, the correct way. We grieve, and that affliction of ours must abstain to question any origins of such horror and pain. Lamentations have to be absolutely pure as only raw emotion — entirely devoted towards the innocent and oblivious of the rest — has been allowed.

Behold the seal of the government. Emmanuel Macron’s words (uttered only a week after the harrowing news) restrict reactions to that of an innocuous, motherly and obedient figure. “What moves us? It is the atrocity of that crime”, declared the President. “Dignity”, “unity”: more noble words cautiously imposed on the lips of those who request to know why such act happened in the first place. Filing behind, docile, the politician and journalistic clique hasten to nod and, above all, to shame and denounce those for whom reality has yet to be held to account.

Gérard Darmanin, French Home Secretary, holds the same line. A very much belated reaction mimicked sheer horror — a disgust that put on equal terms one of the most atrocious murders of 2022 and the reproaches that were addressed to him and his failures. Although Darmanin is tasked with applying law and upholding order, he clearly had no responsibility to bear. The fact that Lola’s murderer, a young Algerian woman who lived illegally on the French soil, had already been officially requested to depart was no concern of his.

Promises turned into denials of duty

Note that Darmanin had stepped into the shoes of many fractious characters, not least Nicolas Sarkozy. Like many of his predecessors, Darmanin originally endorsed hard lines regarding security and immigration. But promises turned into denials of duty and accountability. Aggressions in Lyon over the summer? Greater insecurity in Nantes? Explosion of delinquency, often tied with Islamism? “It doesn’t exist.” The lack of security resources for the final of the Champions League in May 2022 couldn’t have been related to the fact “local youths” were overwhelming, despite them being caught on video. Surely, the fault must be that of naughty ticketless Brits

Politicians weave narratives like webs. The state engages in higher amounts of creativity when it is unable to protect the general interest. Perhaps, it has even lost its capacity to incarnate that general interest. And yet, it interferes with everything, up to our mode of mourning and the pertinence of our doubts. The coldest of all monsters hijacks everyone’s destiny, becomes the sole reference, the sole family.

One episode chases away the next one, and every new tragedy seems more brutal, more inhumane than the last. Crushed by a truck. Riddled with bullets. Dismembered. Beheaded. Now raped, tortured, lacerated, as was youthful Lola. The failure regarding the enforcement of legal obligations to leave the country already led to several other murders and crimes, such as the recent assassination of Father Olivier Maire in Vendée. Does any of it ever matter?

To domesticate the people, it is reality that must be tamed first. Indeed reality is the most perfect scapegoat. Whilst some of the ugliest crimes were committed, it was utterly necessary for French post-modern power’s legitimacy to uphold its imperturbable image. To erase any signs of resistance from the picture. To polish the edges by erasing reactions that don’t toe the line. Violence? Denied. Responsibility? Dismissed. Who on earth still has the nerve to be in favour of reality? Everyone ought to be against it.

All of these people — this crowd weeping, crying, lamenting — must find consolation in the most perfect silence, in the abstention to designate the real, the true monster. Peaceful marches go astray. It is preferable, even desirable, that the crowd remains stunned with incomprehension. Withdrawing into the haven of dignified grief is a convenient way to avoid reality and, as a consequence, to shun any form of understanding. What cannot be named is precisely not representable and thus inconceivable.

Tragedy likes to clothe itself with irony, and Lola’s murder didn’t depart from that rule. Prior to her assassination, a few weeks only, the trial over the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack in Nice started. The body count is not finished. Victims line up, but the living dare less and less to address the cause of their death. Fatalities morph into the fruit of a fate without face.

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