This is my latest column for The Connexion, the monthly newspaper for English speakers in France. It was written, of course, before Marine Le Pen's attempt to turn defeat in to victory in the departmental elections - though in truth, her wretched Front National pushed the unappealing but republican UMP of Nicolas Sarkozy close in many areas, including (I am very sorry to say) Le Lavandou.
It was also written before Jean-Marie Le Pen yet again trashed his daughter's best efforts to present the FN as a "party like any other", repeating his odious view that gas chambers were a mere detail of the Second World War. But while wondering how any decent person could vote for such a party, I recognise that the sort of community tensions that produce such support need to be addressed. I am just rather more even-handed ...
Living in France can make some expats a little more republican-minded. They do not become violently anti-monarchy but ponder the formula of eliminating royalty, if more gently than in 1793, while keeping the palaces for tourists.
But most probably retain royalist tendencies. So it is unsurprising that France struggles to persuade all of its large Muslim minority to feel republican in that very French sense of believing not only in liberté, égalité, fraternité but also laicité, or secularism.
A few embrace extremism in their resistance to European values. And the French government has come up with another masterplan for combating radicalisation. This threatens to become an annual event. Just under a year ago, the interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced plans to stop French citizens joining the flow of young western Muslims to jihad. His ideas included monitoring online activity more closely, making it harder for recruits – especially minors - to travel to Syria and placing those who return under eagle-eyed scrutiny. It was eminently sensible, but failed to halt the flow.
Now Mr Cazeneuve reveals further measures to meet a challenge confronting most of Europe. Imams will be urged to study for diplomas in laicité. There will be fresh emphasis on creating channels of dialogue between government and Muslim leaders.
It will have no more impact than the last initiative. Such dialogue has no great record of success and imans, unless working in prisons, will not be compelled to take civic courses.
But the principle is sound. In troubled times, it seems neither odd nor reactionary to expect loyalty from all citizens, whatever their ethnic origin or faith. In France as elsewhere, education, health care and social benefits have been provided to them. If they feel no loyalty, and are not content to stop at peaceful dissent, they present a danger to society.
No one should worry if Muslims, even those born French, root for Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia against France in football matches, though the jeering by some of La Marseillaise causes understandable offence.
But the terrorist threat is on another plane and no one need feel ashamed for developing illiberal views on how it should be countered.
Sometimes, the small gesture outboxes its weight. There is a case for a simple loyalty test for immigrants or those holding dual nationality, its thrust being that while no one is obliged to agree with French domestic or foreign policy, all should declare opposition to violence and intolerance.
It should even be possible to apply the test more broadly. France, a past master at devising administrative structures, should find ways of presenting such a declaration to all as a condition of possession or renewal of passports and identity cards or even the receipt of social benefits.
Perhaps only a few deluded young people would be stopped from following the jihadist trail, or committing atrocities on French soil, but that would make it at least as successful as well-meaning but ineffectual government action.
This does not get France off the hook of its shabby record on community relations. Mr Cazeneuvce promises greater protection for mosques and Muslim centres against racially-motivated attacks. But discrimination in its wider forms is a familiar recruiting sergeant for extremism and it is not tackled anew by anything he proposes. It must be as a matter of urgency.
Job discrimination is one obvious area, but the row over the “menu unique” imposed by the UMP mayor of Chalon-sur-Saone, removing alternatives to pork when served in school canteens, is another. This is surely a case study in how to make a chunk of the population feel unvalued.
At its peril will France continue to overlook the link between a sense of not belonging and susceptibility to radicalisation.