…in 1940. An older piece from my Substack.
To keep my French up, I watch French news programs and recently, I saw an interview with Robert Badinter. Badinter is a serious person, a heavyweight. He is in his 90s and absolutely on the ball. He was France’s Minister of Justice in the ’80s and oversaw the end of death penalty there. His father was murdered in Sobibor. I could not find the whole interview but here is part of it – he is talking about Ukraine, about Europe, about war, about Putin and his war crimes. He also touches on the French protests about retirement age. There are no subtitles, so only for French speakers.
Today is the 82nd anniversary of de Gaulle’s Appel du 18 Juin. Click on what I wrote last year about this day, if you are so inclined. And speaking of France, I was saddened to hear that Jean-Louis Trintignant died. I just loved Un Homme et Une Femme – a Euro-chick flick, before the term “chick flick” came to be – and not just for its theme song.
The iconic last scene, below.
I had always read that Maurice Chevalier was a weasel during the war. According to this article – from almost three years ago, but I just found and read it – things were a bit more complicated than that. As they so often are…
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.
Now have a listen and appreciate your goosebumps:
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…
Today is Bastille Day, which gives me an excuse to post this scene from Casablanca.
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!