French President François Hollande. (Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Joel Dreyfuss is a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

“After us, the deluge,” has long been the ultimate emblem of French insouciance, attributed to a lover of Louis XV. Indeed, France suffered some of its worst floods in decades this late spring, leaving the waters of the Seine lapping the tops of the arches of the lovely Pont de l’Alma: The toll: 20,000 evacuations across France, four deaths and an estimated billion euros in damage.

The floods turned out not to be the final curtain imagined by Madame Pompadour but the opening scene to an escalating drama that has left France reeling. Already under high alert after the two major terrorist incidents of 2015, since March the country has suffered a crippling series of strikes led by powerful trade unions opposed to labor-law reforms that would make it easier for employers to fire and, presumably, hire workers in a notoriously rigid economy where unemployment is stuck around 10 percent.

Social protests in France are normally highly ritualized theater, with plenty of forewarning of how traffic, trains and subways will be affected and predictable marches by protesters down well-established routes in major cities. Police turn out in riot gear, and the departure boards in stations dutifully announce delays because of “social action.”

But as President François Hollande’s unpopular left-of-center government held fast to the labor reforms, the demonstrations began to escalate in size — and in violence. Last week, protesters attacked the city’s top pediatric hospital, interrupting surgery just getting underway. The Necker Hospital for Sick Children’s sleek sheath, marred by orange graffiti and a spider web of shattered glass, bore evidence of the level of violence, much of it directed at police. The biggest and most militant union, the CGT, denied responsibility, but the government released video footage of men in union colors tossing cobblestones.

Labor unrest was not the only source of violence. Ferocious confrontations erupted last week among soccer fans in Marseille and Lille, sites of games in the month-long Euro 2016 tournament, which has brought 24 teams and hundreds of thousands of fans from across Europe to France. The most shocking televised incident showed Russians surging into a section reserved for English fans, kicking and pummeling as men, women and children fled to safety. Some 20 Russians were expelled from the country, and three were imprisoned.

Despite the strain of policing the labor dispute, the Euro tournament and the persistent threat of terrorism, the government agreed to open “fan zones” in major cities, large public spaces punctuated by giant TV screens so that those without tickets could watch the games. With as many as 60,000 fans on the Champ de Mars in Paris, many worried the sites offered a ripe target for would-be jihadists.

But once again, reality deviated from expectations. Even as the French reacted with horror to the bloodshed in Orlando, the latest domestic terrorist act occurred on a much smaller scale, but it was no less wrenching. A man claiming association with the Islamic State stabbed and killed a couple connected with the national police force in the suburban town of Magnanville, 36 miles west of Paris. Larossi Abballa, 25, who had served time for association with terrorist organizations, streamed video of his brutal act on Facebook. The couple’s 3-year-old son was rescued and the gunman killed. On Friday, Hollande posthumously awarded the Legion of Honor to the victims, Capt. Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and police administrator Jessica Schneider, at a solemn ceremony in Versailles. In a coincidence of intersecting plots, their surviving child was a patient at the hospital attacked by protesters.

June is the time when tourist traffic to France swells toward its summer peak. The famous outdoor terraces are packed again, the empty tables after the terrorist massacre of Nov. 13 an unpleasant memory. The Champs-Élysées is a bubbling stream of bodies and a babel of languages, passage made hazardous by pedestrians frozen in midstride as they text and browse over the just-inaugurated free Champs-Élysées WiFi service.

Americans marvel at how acquiescent the French have been to the inconvenience of canceled Air France flights, overcrowded trains, gas shortages, electricity blackouts, piled-up garbage and blocked streets caused by labor protests. These “manifestations,” as such protests are called, are a hard-earned right of democracy, our French friends remind us — and anyway a majority of citizens agree with the unions about the labor reform, according to the polls.

Citizens of democracies like to declare that they will not let terrorists change the way they live. But the constant threat of violence is having an insidious effect. The whooping sirens reminiscent of a 1950s French film soundtrack are more frequent and urgent. In May, the government forcibly unblocked gasoline refineries as shortages grew. Attentive squads of camouflaged and bereted troops bear assault rifles and patrol the picture-postcard intersections. After the government said it would forbid another march Thursday to protest the labor law, the unions negotiated to use a shorter route defined by the minister of Interior. “At a time when France is hosting the Euro 2016, when it is faced with terrorism,” Hollande has said, “demonstrations can no longer be authorized if property, people and public property cannot be safeguarded.” And at Friday’s solemn ceremony for the slain couple, Hollande said the government was considering allowing off-duty police to carry guns.

Those of us who live here are hoping that the drama will remain on the soccer fields as Euro 2016 staggers toward a July 10 final. But there is still plenty of summer ahead, and surprise entrances are not uncommon in a long-running play. The most permanent change may be taking place incrementally, behind the curtain, as France tries to maintain its enviable lifestyle in the face of a persistent threat.