When I was 21, I arrived in France to begin a teaching job in an affluent arrondissement with a, shall we say, less perfect than advertised understanding of the language and zero experience traveling anywhere outside my tiny home state. After finding that a clerical error had resulted in my cushy job being given away—and too embarrassed to go home—I spend about a month living in a seedy hotel, eating those hard to chew (yet incredibly addictive) ham sandwiches and attempting to parse French television using context clues alone. Once I saw a movie with a plot that inexplicably revolved around Johnny Depp riding an elevator; another time, a game show that seemed to require contestants to infiltrate a castle.
All of this is to say: I have some experience obsessively consuming French shit I cannot follow and so, while I have no idea why this man is slapping French President Emmanuel Macron, that fact has not prevented my viewing this video a dozen times.
In footage circulating on social media, Macron can be seen cheerfully approaching a man on the street who then slaps him in the face before the French equivalent of the Secret Service (which I assume is exactly the same except with a dramatic little apostrophe above one or more vowel) jumps in to separate the president from his attacker. Not one, but two men have been arrested for the assault.
Frustratingly, Politico does not clarify the situation any further and my French is even worse now than it was when I arrived in Paris to find myself unemployed. This unfortunate predicament leaves me therefore woefully unable to understand what the newscasters are saying, though other French authorities seem to condemn any and all public slappings: “Prime Minister Jean Castex called for a ‘Republican awakening, adding: ”Democracy is debate, dialogue, expressing legitimate disagreements, but it cannot in any way be violence, verbal aggression or physical aggression.’”
Even France’s cotton-coiffed answer to Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, seems to agree: “Far-right leader Marine Le Pen also ‘firmly condemned’ what she called ‘an intolerable physical aggression against the president of the republic,’” Politico reports.
Could one of our readers, please explain to me what the fuck is going on here? Is there perhaps some French politician/commoner slap-duel tradition dating back to Charles the Bald of which I am unaware? Could someone bring me one of those ham sandwiches while we sort this out?