The French can be among the best followers in the world. If by that is meant their engagement in public affairs. If by that is meant their willingness to speak truth to power. If by that is meant their readiness to fight for what they believe.
To be clear – the French can also be among the worst followers in the world. If by that is meant their passivity in the face of evil. If by that is meant their streak of extremism. If by that is meant their refusal to sacrifice private comfort for public good.
Today is testimony to the first. I cannot speak to tomorrow. But today has already been enshrined in French history, memorable not only for the million marchers in the streets of Paris, but for the overarching theme – unity.
Unity has not always been France’s strong suit. The French have a history of being antipathetic to outsiders, to those who fail to conform to their conception of what a Frenchman, or Frenchwoman, or for that matter French child, should look like.
Today, though, such differences seem secondary. Today everyone in France who is other than a terrorist is French. Today everyone in France is Charlie. Today everyone in France is a Jew.