Bastille Day

In celebration of Bastille Day, today’s entry is my expression of gratitude to La République Française et les citoyens français (the French Republic and the French Citizens).

It is all too popular of an American sport and political diversioin, to mock, insult, and scapegoat the French. They frequently oppose U.S. foreign policy, have a reputation for rudeness, and we do often hate that which we do not understand. I will agree that the Gallic mentality is sometimes unintelligible to me, and that France and the French are not without their current and historical flaws. Nevertheless, Anti-gallic propaganda has unfortunately convinced many Americans to forget the tremendous debt we owe to our French brothers and sisters.

Gandhi said “be the change you want to see in the world.” I want to see a world where Americans show proper respect to our “true Mother Country.”

Without the French, there would be no “United States of America”

We should never forget that but for the Marquis de Lafayette, the American Revolution would likely have failed. (It is no surprise that he is one of only five people in history to be granted “honorary citizenship” by the United States. Lafayette is a perfect symbol for the fact that the French were essentially the nurses to the infant United States. Nevertheless, French support for our struggle against King George took the form of money, men, munitions, and diplomacy. French blood was the mother’s milk of the Revolution.

But for the French, the “Star Spangled Banner” would either never have been written, and depending on where in the United States you currently live, you would be a citizen of the United Kingdom, France itself, Spain, Russia, Mexico, or perhaps an unconceivable independent nation. The fact is, but for the French, there would be no America. Merci beaucoup mes amis.

Without the French, the “dream” of America would not exist.

The French have not only given us our independence, but gave us the very philosophy upon which we founded this great nation – the spirit of the enlightenment. Admittedly, this was not a purely French phenomenon. Nevertheless, what would the enlightenment have been without Montesquieu who bestowed the theory of separation of powers upon us? Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or otherwise, who (besides George Bush, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney) is not grateful for this gallic gift?

François-Marie Arouet, more commonly known as Voltaire, was an early defender of civil liberties, including freedom of religion and the right to a fair trial. Who wouldn’t be? Well, in Voltaire’s day there were strong censorship laws in France, and harsh penalties for those with the courage or stupidity to defy them.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Political philosopher wrote the “Social Contract,” which serves as the theoretical foundation of our modern notions of a democratic government.

I could go on, but I believe my point is made. When you think of the theoretical underpinnings of the constitution, you have no business doing so without whispering to yourself, “merci beaucoup encore.”

Bastille Day

The Bastille was a notorious prison where the French Monarchy held political prisoners and those whose writing challenged their power and authority. As a factual matter, on July 14, 1789 at the time of the storming of the Bastille, there were only seven prisoners, none of whom were of any political significance, and the siege had little practical effect upon the French Revolution. Nevertheless, the storming was a rallying point for the French Revolution and a destruction of a key symbol of the French monarchy’s absolutism. What could be more “American” than the people rising up to destroy a prison where the authorities held political prisoners, jailed for their writing on matters of political importance?

Perhaps there are those who believe that we have paid our debt to France by “bailing them out of two world wars.” I say otherwise. I anticipate that the day will come that I will have spent more of my life caring for my parents than they spent caring for me. (At least I hope so). Nevertheless, without my parents, I would neither have my existence nor my personality. As I can never repay that debt in full, I believe that our debt to France will never reach zero. Therefore, today, on their national holiday, I extend my gratitude and love for France and the French — flaws and all.

Vive la France!

Le Marquis de Lafayette

3 Responses to Bastille Day

  1. Jeff Fuller says:

    Although I am not sure I would go as far as to say that France deserves the title of Parents of the US, there is no doubt they contributed mightily to the success both philosophically and militarily of this country. Therefore we should always be willing to help the country that stood with us in a time of great need. That does not mean however we have to like it.

    I appreciate the simile you use to explain your position on the level of respect Americans owe France and on a certain level I agree. However, I don’t think you took the family image to its real conclusion. If we are the child of France then we are in a dysfunctional family. In stead of a loving father, France is more like an alcoholic father who drinks to much and smokes three packs a day. He dresses funny, never works, and is critical of everything you do. He has or has tried to sleep with every girlfriend you ever had and he constantly sides with your worst enemy. All the while telling you better love me because I brought you into this world! The truth is you do respect him because of that and every time he gets arrested you go and bail him out. He is appreciative for while but soon his belligerence returns and you are forced to stand back and wait dutifully for the next your father needs help because that is who you are.

    We do owe a great deal to France but it doesn’t mean we have to like it. In the spirit of good family relations Viva la France!!!

    Mr. Fuller:

    First off, you can’t imagine how delighted I was to see your name in the “from” field. I miss having you in class.

    Second, your response made me literally laugh out loud to the point that other people in the office want to know what I am doing in here. Outstanding.


  2. Frédéric says:

    Jeff, Marc,

    The alcoholic father loves to be flattered. Such a nice post deserves a toast.
    Let’s drink to that.
    Please allow me to choose the wine :

    Cheers !

  3. They gave us Alexis de Tocqville. I will begrudgingly give them that much, if only for the story told about Young Alex when I still lived in Michigan. Apparently, he was in a tavern in Pontiac and heard some travellers talking about the settlement at Saginaw. intrigued, he decided that he needed to see it for himself. After two days carriage ride, he arrived. He opened the door, stepped in to the mud, looked around and got back into the carriage, without comment, and rode away. Even in the 20th Century, that pretty much said it all.

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