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French mayor killed would deny claims he is a hero

Editorial by Patrice Maggio, deputy editor of the Nice-Matin, Var-Matin newspapers, where the article first appeared in French. He is writing about mayor Jean Michel, who died after being run over by a van driver he had reprimanded for dumping rubble illegally

28 August 2019

According to American doctor Duncan MacDougall, a human soul weighs 21 grammes.

How much, then, would the life of an old mayor from a village in the Var weigh? On scales that measure human value, how many kilos would a mandate of 36 years weigh?

How much for the piles of paperwork and administration gulped down to the point of indigestion? And what about the many meetings? When you have an answer, times it by a lot and add some...

But even then could it equate to a few bags of rubble? It’s obviously worth no more.

If it was, Jean Michel (pictured) would be here today.

He was mayor for 36 years. Why? It wasn’t to indulge in fine wine and giant lobster. In Signes, he would have, at a push, enjoyed a glass of rosé and anchovy tartine at the festival of Saint-Eloi.

So perhaps he had the taste for power? If he wasn’t dead, Jean Michel would smile (or get angry) at the idea. The kind of power he had is fiercely disputed less and less these days.

Was it because he loved an argument? In this regard, small-town mayors are rarely disappointed. They generally, although not always, discuss their policies on social media.

As they are much more easily approachable than their colleagues in big cities, they are entitled to turn to their constituents – unfiltered – for help even with the smallest of the decisions they make.

No. If someone puts on the tricolour sash, most of the time it’s due to two old, stunted ideas that don’t make anyone excited any more: a sense of duty and public service.

Jean Michel did not renounce on either and added to these what the President of the Republic called “a concern for his country”.

What he did that Monday on an isolated road in his municipality was not radical or heroic. It was just an attempt to enforce the law and to remind people much younger than himself that the same laws apply to everyone. It was just courageous.

Whenever you think of councillors as crooks, remind yourself that there are many Jean Michels among them, many more than you would think.

They are, at the same time, both the strength and the good fortune that hold up French democracy.

See also French mayor’s death exposes a rise in public threats

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