Showing posts with label France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label France. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

France and World War 2

Mr. Tater just said "you're welcome" for the fact that the Nazis didn't win World War 2, in response to a very non-political post I just did about tennis. Apparently, everyone in France has to grovel and suck the toes of America until the end of history because of the Allied victory in Europe, to such an extent that a completely non-political post about tennis isn't immune from this kind of irritating smugness.

I have several points to make here.

Yes, France surrendered quickly to the Nazis in World War 2. They made some tactical errors in the face of a very well organized Nazi attack. One reason that the French surrendered so quickly is that they didn't want their cities devastated. They were trying to save lives. You're free to judge that decision on its own merits.

Northern France became occupied territory, and Southern France became a Nazi collaborator regime. Several years later, starting with the Normandy invasion, the Allied armies, including American, British, and, yes, French soldiers, liberated Europe and defeated the Nazis.

That's the history of what happened to France in World War 2, in a nutshell.

This whole right-wing meme that the French should lick the boots of the Americans for all time because we saved them from the Nazis stems from a weird, jingoistic, skewed view of history. Again, it wasn't just the Americans who liberated Europe. The Allied forces were made up of troops from a lot of different countries. The French Resistance also had a lot to do with the success of the Allied victory.

Secondly, if the French have to lick the boots of the Americans because of World War 2, then we certainly have to do some significant boot-licking ourselves.

If it weren't for the intervention of the French in the American Revolution, we'd still be a British colony today.

So, as the French would say, de rien.

Thirdly, I'm well aware of the sacrifice made by the troops who liberated Europe. When I was a kid, my Boy Scout troop camped at the beaches of Normandy, in the American cemetery. We learned the bloody history of the battle in a very up close and personal way. We explored the German bunkers, walked on the beach, wandered through the cemetery looking at the names of those who sacrificed their lives to save Europe from fascism. We went to the Normandy Memorial Museum. We met Holocaust survivors. We met World War 2 veterans and thanked them for their service.

A few years ago, the American School of Paris, which my brother and I attended while we lived in France, had its 60th anniversary celebration, and my family and I flew to Paris for the occasion. During a dinner in honor of the anniversary, there was one speaker whom I will never forget. He was a World War 2 veteran who had fought at Normandy. Even in that space, when we were celebrating the 60th anniversary of a school, we set aside time to honor those without whose sacrifice that school would never have existed. After the dinner, I went up to the veteran, I shook his hand, and I thanked him for his service. I told him, "You helped win the war."

So, Mr. Tater. Don't insinuate to me that I don't understand the sacrifice that the Allied troops made to liberate Europe from fascism. To do so is offensive, ignorant, and pig-headed, and demonstrates a knee-jerk jingoism that is the cause of many of the problems we have in this country today.

Also, since you wish to say, "You're Welcome," for said liberation, my question to you is, with which battalion did you fight in World War 2, since you were clearly there?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Paris to allow high-rise buildings

The beautiful city of Paris is about to unleash architectural hell, by lifting a ban on buildings taller than 37 meters in the city center.

If you've ever been to Paris, or seen pictures of it, you will no doubt notice that the city itself is generally defined by neighborhoods of gorgeous stone buildings and green spaces, with the skyscrapers limited to a separate business district called La Defense.

Pictures of Paris:

See how the Eiffel Tower soars above the buildings? How can Paris think about obscuring it with skyscrapers?

I lived outside of Paris for five years, and I studied abroad in Paris for a semester. I feel a special connection with that city, not in the least because of its uniqueness. It is not a city of metal and steel, like New York. It is a city of ancient streets and beautiful architecture, of winding alleys and wrought iron, of cute cafes and busy brasseries, a city that eternally has a baguette under one arm and a cigarette in the other hand, a city of philosophy and history, of romance, and love, and life. Hyperbole? Bad metaphor? Trite? Sure. But it's all true.

I don't want Paris to become just another big city, with huge skyscrapers dwarfing its monuments and its museums and diluting its unique ambiance. And I don't understand how a socialist mayor can think that this is a good idea, especially when 2/3 of Parisians strongly oppose the idea.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Bastille Day!

On July 14, 1789, a brave group of workers and shopkeepers, sick of the tyranny of Louis XVI, burned down the Bastille fortress in the center of Paris, which had become a symbol of the regime, and kicked off one of the bloodiest revolutions in history. Today, July 14th is celebrated as France's national holiday.

The French national anthem is La Marseillaise:

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !

Refrain :

Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Couplet 2 :

Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français, pour nous, ah ! quel outrage
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage !


Couplet 3 :

Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !


Couplet 4 :

Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides
L'opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La terre en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prets à se battre !


Couplet 5 :

Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Epargnez ces tristes victimes,
A regret s'armant contre nous. (bis)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !


Couplet 6 :

Amour sacré de la Patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)
Sous nos drapeaux que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents,
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !


Couplet 7 (dit couplet des enfants) :

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus,
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus (bis)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre


Translation here.