There was a heatwave in Europe this summer. It made life uncomfortable everywhere, from London to Rome. But only in France did the death toll climb up and up. The "brutal Iraqi summer" so eagerly anticipated by the Continent's anti-Americans is believed to have killed two US soldiers. The brutal Gallic summer wound up killing well over 10,000.--Mark Steyn
Why? It seems to have been a combination of factors.
Snobbery: The French regard air-conditioners as vulgar and American. Big government: The French healthcare system is designed for the convenience of its employees, so in summer it's on vacation. Heartlessness: The entire country goes to the beach in August, and having grand-mere along would be too much of a drag, so it's easier to leave her in her airless city apartment.
Bernard Mazeyrie, managing director of France's largest undertakers', noted that many of the bereaved were in no hurry to bury their aged loved ones, preferring to leave them on ice while they stayed sur la plage to finish their holidays.
By the standards of the world, Iran, China and France are all wealthy societies. They're vulnerable to "events" because of their organizational principles – a primitive theocracy which disdains modernity; a modified totalitarianism which thinks you can reap the benefits of capitalism without the institutions of liberty; and a cradle-to-grave welfare state that has so enfeebled its citizens' ability to act as responsible adults that even your dead mum is just one more inconvenience the government should do something about.
In a period of two weeks during August, more than 11,000 elderly French men and women died of heat stroke. It is important to note this is not nearly the scandal in France that it would be in America. In fact, upon hearing the news, French president Jacques Chirac decided to stay on vacation in Quebec, Canada.--Dennis Prager
Why not? Because, in the words of British historian Paul Johnson, the French – like most Europeans, and like most left-thinking people anywhere – love ideas more than people.
[T]he future of the world is either European secular socialism, Islamic totalitarianism or the unique American combination of Judeo-Christian religiosity and political and economic liberty.
Few Americans are attracted to the second possibility, but vast numbers look to Europe as a model. One hopes that the next time they do, they will note the 11,000 elderly dead in France. But don't bet on it.
As of writing, there are in excess of 300 corpses yet unclaimed. It is the normal policy in France that if a body is not claimed within six days, it is buried in a pauper’s grave. But, given that it’s the month of the grande vacance, the French are cutting the relatives a little slack. As an official indicated understandingly, it’s August and many of the relatives may not wish to cut into their month long vacation to come home early to claim a body.--Dennis McQueen, World Net Daily
As the numbers of heat deaths climb, a final figure of close to 20,000 is being seen as not unrealistic – in other words, a humanitarian disaster.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Guantanamo Bay, which the French are in the habit of condemning with dainty disgust as barbaric, sweltering, fetid and inhuman, remains remarkably stable: None.
Does anyone else find this claim suspicious? "France's worst heat wave on record has killed an estimated 3,000 people across the nation, the Health Ministry said Thursday, as the government faced accusations that it failed to respond to a major health crisis," the Associated Press reports from Paris.--James Taranto, WSJ
Three thousand deaths? In a Western European country? Because of the weather? This is the kind of death toll usually reserved for Third World natural disasters--Chinese earthquakes, Bangladeshi floods and the like. Has the heat really killed 3,000 Frenchmen?
I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own.--James Wolcott
[all links via Crooked Timber, exc. for the Wolcott post, which the author had the good sense to apologize for before Katrina struck landfall]
UPDATE: My bad. The French heat wave occurred two years ago, and most of the above quotes originated then.