The other France

The Chirac presidency has taken an enormous toll on Franco-American relations. France is now actively despised by a substantial segment of the American public, regarded as a betrayer of trust, an ingrate and perfidious to the core.

Of course, America has long been a subject of political hatred in France. I am very far from an expert on French pubic opinion, but in my bones I suspect that popular French attitudes toward America are shaped more by over-intellectualized theories covering up a sense of loss over France's position in the world, than by actual dislike. In fact, the vast majority of French people I know actually like and enjoy America and Americans based on their own experiences here or with Americans. France, after all, was occupied by Germans, and then sequentially by Americans, and even though the generation with personal experience of this is dying, such memories do not die quickly. Nothing better demonstrates the inherent goodness of America than our behavior as victors in WW II.

Our friend John Rosenthal reports in World Politics Watch on the reaction to Nicolas Sarkozy's victory speech and his pledge of friendship wiuth the United States after winning the election for France's president. The reaction of the crowd tells us much:
... what was revealing was the spontaneous applause and cheering that broke out among the crowd when he uttered the words "to say to them that they can count on our friendship": "pour leur dire qu'ils peuvent compter sur notre amitié." You can hear and see it here. The passage on Franco-American relations is just over half way through the tape and a cursor control at the bottom of the media player allows you to skip forward. Even supposing such a pledge of friendship to the United States might -- with all the "appropriate" qualifications -- be found, for instance, in a speech by Jacques Chirac, it would certainly not receive such an enthusiastic response from his partisans -- to say nothing of the partisans of Mme. Royal. This already represents an important difference between the old regime and the incoming new one.
I admit that Chirac has taken a toll on my attitude toward France. I continue to find admirable aspects of contemporary France (the health care system has a lot to teach us, forexample - the French get a much better deal than we do for their money, for instance). However, I had a French immigrant grandfather, and have always had mixed feelings about France, resenting the public America-bashing but always enjoying my visits there and having enjoyed friendships with various people there.

I am optimistic that Sarkozy will be able to pull off a difficult feat and actually change French politics. Lord knows that a market-driven France, a vigilant defender of the heritage of Western Civilization (which, admit it, France has been in the past) would be a very welcome addition to the community of nations. The French are a very talented people with an extraordinary heritage. My heart yearns to welcome back the ties of true friendship which have historically characterized out two nations.

Best of all, it looks as though my feelings toward France are in fact reciprocated by a solid segment of politically active French people. May Sarkozy enjoy success in healing the rift.
The Chirac presidency has taken an enormous toll on Franco-American relations. France is now actively despised by a substantial segment of the American public, regarded as a betrayer of trust, an ingrate and perfidious to the core.

Of course, America has long been a subject of political hatred in France. I am very far from an expert on French pubic opinion, but in my bones I suspect that popular French attitudes toward America are shaped more by over-intellectualized theories covering up a sense of loss over France's position in the world, than by actual dislike. In fact, the vast majority of French people I know actually like and enjoy America and Americans based on their own experiences here or with Americans. France, after all, was occupied by Germans, and then sequentially by Americans, and even though the generation with personal experience of this is dying, such memories do not die quickly. Nothing better demonstrates the inherent goodness of America than our behavior as victors in WW II.

Our friend John Rosenthal reports in World Politics Watch on the reaction to Nicolas Sarkozy's victory speech and his pledge of friendship wiuth the United States after winning the election for France's president. The reaction of the crowd tells us much:
... what was revealing was the spontaneous applause and cheering that broke out among the crowd when he uttered the words "to say to them that they can count on our friendship": "pour leur dire qu'ils peuvent compter sur notre amitié." You can hear and see it here. The passage on Franco-American relations is just over half way through the tape and a cursor control at the bottom of the media player allows you to skip forward. Even supposing such a pledge of friendship to the United States might -- with all the "appropriate" qualifications -- be found, for instance, in a speech by Jacques Chirac, it would certainly not receive such an enthusiastic response from his partisans -- to say nothing of the partisans of Mme. Royal. This already represents an important difference between the old regime and the incoming new one.
I admit that Chirac has taken a toll on my attitude toward France. I continue to find admirable aspects of contemporary France (the health care system has a lot to teach us, forexample - the French get a much better deal than we do for their money, for instance). However, I had a French immigrant grandfather, and have always had mixed feelings about France, resenting the public America-bashing but always enjoying my visits there and having enjoyed friendships with various people there.

I am optimistic that Sarkozy will be able to pull off a difficult feat and actually change French politics. Lord knows that a market-driven France, a vigilant defender of the heritage of Western Civilization (which, admit it, France has been in the past) would be a very welcome addition to the community of nations. The French are a very talented people with an extraordinary heritage. My heart yearns to welcome back the ties of true friendship which have historically characterized out two nations.

Best of all, it looks as though my feelings toward France are in fact reciprocated by a solid segment of politically active French people. May Sarkozy enjoy success in healing the rift.