I’m a day late with this, but ever since I lived in France – lo, those many years ago – I can never look at the calendar on June 18 without thinking of this speech, the magnificent call to resistance made by Charles de Gaulle to his occupied people. They didn’t really answer it, but hey, the guy tried. And regardless of his less attractive traits, he had honour here – as did his niece, who joined the fight and as a result of her courage was sent to a concentration camp. Mercifully, she survived.
My first exposure to this speech was when I was working as an au pair to two little boys in a snooty part of Paris. I remember making breakfast for them one morning in June, and they began reciting this appel, word for word. Remarkable! I was young and had not heard of it at that point, though I knew who de Gaulle was. I asked about it and they explained that it was the 18th of June, the day of de Gaulle’s great speech. They had memorized it in school. I believe, back then, all French kids did. I hope they still do. De Gaulle was an interesting fellow. I read this book last year and learned, among other things, that he was an adoring and gentle father with his mentally-challenged daughter. Such a contrast to the public belligerence. So very human.
Yes, Covid is a defining story. But you know what isn’t? Trump vs. Biden. This too shall pass and America will survive because it is a great country. The anger and the loudness don’t make it “the most important election of our lifetime.” Nope.
Here is something that will have a far greater impact – CRISPR.
And frankly, the tragedy of Samuel Paty should be the headline in every Western country, in every Western newspaper. But it is not. We are cowards. We are blithe. I fear it is too late for Europe (as spot-on as Macron was in this speech, he can’t do it alone), but maybe not for North America. I stress the “maybe.”
After the Charlie Hebdo massacres, someone I had thought to be sane-ish, told me I was wrong to view it as a black-and-white issue. Oh no, she said – there are “nuances” and “shades of grey.” Seriously? Slaughtering people because they mocked your faith and slaughtering people because they are Jews are actions that are nuanced? I referenced this person’s nonsense here (column is from 2015 and links may no longer work).
We need moral leaders. Principled leaders. Trump is not one, but anyone who thinks Biden will be one is deluded, and then some. Where are our moral leaders on Paty? The Pope recently made an exciting and positive comment about gay civil unions. Wonderful, of course, but a week after Paty’s murder he has yet to utter the man’s name and yet to issue a condemnation of the murderer and his motivation. I’m not surprised, though: after Charlie Hebdo, Pope Francis said a remarkably stupid thing about the massacres, apparently excusing the crimes (see my column above).
When the President of France is your greatest hope…
The great actor Sir Ian Holm died recently. He was wonderful in Chariots of Fire, of course and people tell me he was fine in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I haven’t seen. But the movie I most loved him in was The Emperor’s New Clothes, a movie that imagines Napoleon coming back to France from St. Helena, and not being recognized. The former Emperor, down on his luck, meets and falls in love with a fruit vendor, and decides to help her fix her failing business. This has to be my favourite scene in the film, a moment that captures the importance of leadership and planning. So inspiring – whatever you do, do it well!
Today marks the 77th anniversary of the Rafle du Vel d’Hiv in Paris. It took the French over 50 years to admit their very proactive role in this tragedy, and Jacques Chirac was the one to finally tell the truth. For this reason, I will always have respect for him, in spite of his being — in my view – politically objectionable on other matters. There was absolutely nothing for him to gain from this in terms of votes. It was simply the right thing to do.
I sometimes think about going back to school for my Ph.D. But then I read things like this and wonder. There was a time when having a doctorate meant something positive about your intellect and your ability to think critically. I don’t think that is true anymore. I think it merely means something about being able to fit in with the unfortunate zeitgeist. Further, I think my Significant Other is correct when he says tenure should be abolished.
It’s a quiet, rainy Good Friday. Currently contemplating whether I should go out and try to get some pictures of the procession. Wanted to comment a bit on Notre Dame and the fire. First, read this great piece by historian Tom Holland. Second, I’m a bit tired of hearing all of this silly sort of “instead of millionaires donating money to rebuild a church, shouldn’t these same millionaires be building houses for the poor” comment repeated over and over. Lovely ideal, but one needn’t have spent years studying economics to understand why this is not how things function. If it were that simple such decisions would be so much easier and clearer, and no one would be destitute.
Third, here’s a bad photo I took of Notre Dame, four years ago. I have taken good photos of the cathedral, but I have a fondness for this picture above the others. Significant Other and I were in Paris and I convinced him to take a boat ride along the Seine. I had seen Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant do the same in Charade and imagined us in elegant splendour, drinking champagne. Instead, ’twas a nightmare: crowded with loud, aggressive tourists; cold; rushed. I am a seasoned traveler, and should have known this was how it would be, but…I did get this photo and we had a great laugh about the whole experience.