The videos are dramatic. Lit by flames, two shirtless men kick in the window of a shop full of motorbikes. One of the men hauls a bike through the broken window and rolls it away into the darkness.
In the aftermath of France’s win over Croatia in the World Cup Final on Sunday, 500 people were arrested. At least two people died. One of them was in an automobile accident. The other broke his neck diving into a shallow canal.
But in the aftermath of France’s win over Croatia, the general mood was encouraging. A woman who lives in Bondy, a suburb of Paris that’s home to many immigrants, said, “Once in a while, we are united. We are one country, one people.”
The woman’s name is Linda Bourja, and she was speaking to a reporter for The New York Times.
“That doesn’t happen too often,” she said, referring to the feeling of unity inspired by winning the World Cup. “It should happen more often, true. But today is a day for all of us, wherever we’re from.”
Already, the rioting and the arrests have become a bad memory.
Perhaps the sense of unity has also already begun to fade. If so, it would be a shame. The idea that people of various colors speaking in a variety of accents and dialects could relish a sense that they are all united in celebration is magnificent.
It may be only temporarily magnificent. Poverty, overcrowding, prejudice and brutality in France won’t go away any more than poverty, prejudice and brutality in Chicago went away when the Cubs finally won the World Series.
But the sense of unity about which Linda Bourja speaks feels real to her. And she’s not alone. Goffrey Hamsik, another fan of the French team, is quoted in an article in The Express that also features images of the rioting. But his take, like Ms. Bourja’s, is positive. “We’ve had lots of problems in France these past years. This is good for morale,” he told reporters. “We are all united. We mix. There is no religion, there is nothing, and that’s what feels good.”
In the wake of the World Cup, is it naive to relish that sense of unity, the conviction that we are one? I don’t think so. And I hope that some of that sense, born of euphoria, will endure wherever people have the good fortune to discover and embrace it.
This segment aired on July 20, 2018.