Maybe God exists, and He cares for all of us, even those amongst us who happen to be sinners… and criminals. But there are times when everyday crooks are likely to be so dismayed by their amazing rotten luck that they might be forgiven for wondering whether the Creator is indeed making an effort to protect them. Worse still, these run-of-the-mill lawbreakers, whose only preoccupation consists of trying constantly to earn a dishonest penny, might even be led astray into atheism of the worst kind…
Consider, for example, this item of news from rural France. Etampes is an ancient and charming small town to the south of Paris, midway between Chartres and Fontainebleau, which has often been used as a setting for movies.
As an enthusiast of pumpkin scones [click here to see my blog post on this subject], I’m impressed by the beauty of a famous red pumpkin variety that bears the name of this town.
Surrounded by such celebrated places as Paris, Orléans and Chartres, Etampes has always found it hard to shine in the domain of historical celebrity. In other words, it’s a quiet town, where nothing much ever happens these days. There’s not even an autoroute or a high-speed train line in the vicinity of the town, whose residents must get fed up with constant allusions to Etampes as a “gateway” into the Ile-de-France region surrounding Paris.
All in all, it’s the kind of environment in which low-level robbers might hope to earn a modest living, without taking too many risks. In any case, that was the intention of two naive delinquents who used a pistol, late last Wednesday evening, to hold up a young couple who happened to strolling through the wintry streets of the sleepy town. What could be more straightforward, more normal?
Now, to understand the rest of this trivial story (which nevertheless made its way into all the French media), you have to know that the outskirts of Etampes were chosen as an ideal site to set up the training school of the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group [GIGN = Groupe d'intervention de la gendarmerie nationale], the elite special-operations squad of the French Armed Forces, trained to perform counter-terrorist and hostage-retrieval missions throughout the world.
And sometimes, of an evening, both male and female members of this army unit are likely to don civilian clothes and go for a walk through the deserted streets of Etampes. Well, the future robbery victims chosen by the above-mentioned delinquents happened to be a pair of GIGN trainees (a young guy and a girl)… who noticed instantly that the pistol pointed at them by one of the would-be robbers wasn’t equipped with a charger. Now, that was indeed a silly omission, particularly when you happen to be holding up two members of the GIGN, in the hope of getting hold of their cash. Things happened so quickly that the pistol-wielder didn’t know what had hit him. His unarmed mate escaped, but was rapidly cornered by local police.
Normally, when residents of Etampes happen to get a glimpse of these GIGN guys engaged in training activities, they’re easily recognized, because they look something like this:
But how can an unskilled everyday delinquent be expected to recognize GIGN personnel when the crime-fighters don’t even go to the trouble of wearing their distinctive gear? Indeed, if GIGN members are allowed to roam around the quiet streets of Etampes of an evening dressed in civilian clothes, they must be considered as a potentially grave danger for unwitting robbers and miscellaneous delinquents... and there should be a law against situations of this kind.