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France, A Nation Divided Must Face Its Weakness

Headscratching choice
Headscratching choice
Paul-Henri du Limbert


PARIS — Several decades of weakness and/or blindness have brought France to where it is today. A deeply divided country, where two camps are facing off with an animosity rarely seen in its recent past. An unhappy France vs. a happy France, a France of privilege vs. a France of exclusion, France from on high vs. France down below. No matter what you call it, the reality boils down to the same conclusion: The nation is split in two.

Those who, in the name of their guilty intellectual comfort, wanted to hide this reality were horrified on the night of the first round of elections. The voters who make up the "circle of reason" (as they call it in the upscale Paris neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés), that is, those of Emmanuel Macron and of François Fillon, were counted. They made up 44% of the votes. Those of Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan were also counted, and they, too, made up 44%. A protest vote as worrying as it is historic.

The issue is not to condemn these voters, and even less so to insult them, but rather to give them new reason for hope. In this regard, the remarks made by Macron in Le Figaro last week, "I heard the anger and I will take it into account," are welcome. Even if, clearly, a lot of real action needs to happen.

The first problem that has to be tackled is the endemic unemployment, a great source of extremist voting, as Francois Hollande's five-year term as president has so spectacularly demonstrated.

The extent of the anger means forgetting old certainties.

If he wins on Sunday, Macron will have to break down all the barriers that stand in the way of hiring, which the Left, as it races to turn France into a country with 6.5 million unemployed, calls "social gains."

But the future president will also have to confront the issues of security and immigration, with which Macron, a former investment banker and minister of the economy, is less familiar.

The extent of the anger expressed in the April 23 first round of voting will force him to grab the bull by the horns — and to forget the old certainty of coexistence cultivated nonchalantly at Socialist Party headquarters on Rue de Solferino.

Those close to Macron often describe their leader as particularly intelligent and audacious. Indeed, an abundance of intelligence and audacity he will need.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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