In celebration of Bastille Day, today’s entry is my annual 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.”
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!