Two huge terror attacks in a year would be enough to challenge the spirit of any country.
As if the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 and the Paris attacks in November were not enough, a third episode of carnage in Nice on Bastille Day, July 14, has shaken France to the brink of a terrifying escalation.
An isolated immigrant population and a strident right-wing political faction in a country awash with guns has created a toxic and explosive mixture. France, a nation long considered a beacon of liberty and stability, may be on the edge of something resembling a civil war.
I wish I could say this was just hysterical exaggeration. But the evidence does not support complacency. Just down the road from me on the outskirts of Montpellier on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, there's long been a gun club where enthusiastic game hunters can polish their skills during the off-season. Unlike in Britain, it is perfectly legal for members of such clubs to own pistols and semi-automatic rifles.
In the last few months, since the wave of terrorism has intensified, the membership of the gun club has quadrupled, from 200 to 800 members. The new members are not all motivated by the love of shooting sports. Benoit, a local olive farmer who owns more than a dozen rifles, pistols and shotguns, as well as an AK-47 assault rifle, admitted to me this weekend something much darker.
"They're getting ready for a war," he said.
This sounds crazy, but last week, even before the latest atrocity in Nice, it was revealed that Patrick Calvar, a senior French intelligence official, had told a parliamentary committee that one more incident could provoke a bloody civil conflict in this country.