Forgetting Politics and Going for the “Nice-ties”
At the Orly Airport the TV screen blasted President Nicolas Sarkozy speaking to his public. It held the attention of everyone at the little ‘bio’ snack café. I watched their faces as I typed away on my laptop with his image to my back, but the sound of his voice in my ears. At first I didn’t recognize his voice — it was softer, friendlier, warmer than in past speeches, which were made with a resound and confidence that commanded a tough presence. This was different.
Perhaps he’s been advised that to win over the French people, he must be more like ‘one of them’ and less like a ‘leader.’ He made his big mistake when he flashed his Rolex, his fancy vacations, his beautiful wife and his “work more, earn more” rhetoric, thinking his constituents would aspire to be more like him. But as you see in this first round of elections, they opted for someone humbler, more like the ‘people.’ It reminded me of why George W. Bush had so much appeal to so many.
Over dinner Monday night with an old and dear French friend who has always held a right-leaning political position, she took up arms with me over a recent article in Parler Paris (The French Pyramid of Hatred) questioning Mr. Sarkozy’s thinking on immigration, pointing out that it seemed as if I was not a supporter.
“Au contraire, mon amie!” I argued. “Read it again. I make no statements, but ask many questions. The questions themselves are what lead you to believe my leanings are left.”
The truth is I am drowning in political confusion. I said to her, “I am an immigrant. As a capitalist, I am more in agreement with Sarkozy’s ideas and believe he is the only one who can set France economically on the right course. You don’t see me as an immigrant because I am American, white, educated and financially independent. But when Monsieur Sarkozy threatens to take my social security benefits from me, even though I have paid into the social security system and pay my taxes like any French citizen, have legal residency, etc., etc., I can’t help but fear for the way he will manage the immigration issue. It affects me personally.”
She was incensed by ‘other’ immigrants who have taken advantage of the liberal French social security, showing me an article in Le Point charting how France spends more than double of than any other European nation to take care of their own and the ‘others’ — but not meaning ME, the white American — meaning the ‘others’ who have many wives (illegally of course), and therefore many children, all of whom who are covered under the French system, but have not paid their full and right dues.
The argument is valid. And it’s no wonder Marine Le Pen got such a large vote when you consider this ideology. But the solutions are not yet apparent. I struggle with defining my own ‘non-Frenchness’ as different than another’s. What makes my American heritage different in they eyes of the French from other immigrants?
You, my illustrious and valued readers often prefer that Parler Paris or Parler Nice be more a view of life in France through rose-colored glasses, rather than delving into subjects that make us think and reflect on our values, but that’s not being fair or truthful about life here. There is always a spot or two that blinds the sight and needs a bit of polishing. At the moment, politics is on everyone’s lips, regardless of their nationality. It can’t be avoided.
My friend, Barb Westfield, who owns a village house in Ansouis in the Luberon of Provence that she rents to vacationers is here in Nice visiting with me. You may recall the photo she took of the butcher’s joking statement on politics from last November when I visited her (Provençal Pig-Headed Politicians (or Gobbling a French Gobble-Gobble))? He, like most of the French, is a politically active guy, and his statement about the elections might have meant: both are pigs? And the entrails are the people of France? It’s hard for me to tell, but basically he was right.
This morning the sunshine is pouring into the windows of “Le Matisse” and the Mediterranean is glistening. The streets are buzzing with vacationers — the season has already begun, according to the proprietor of Le Bistrot Antoine (27, rue de la Préfecture, 06300 Nice, 04.93.85.29.57) who was hustling as quickly as she could last night to serve her up her very full house of diners. This and their sister restaurant, Le Comptoir du Marché (8, rue du Marché, 06000 Nice, 04.93.13.45.01) are equally amazing for the price, ambience and service. It’s been a habit to dine at least at one of them with each visit.
Later today we will forget politics and visit the museums in Cimiez: The Archeological Museum of Nice Cimiez, Le Musée Matisse and Le Musée National Marc Chagall. Two city buses will take us to all of them on this glorious day on the Riviera.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Nice
P.S. Back in Paris — be sure to note that Tuesday, May 1 at 6 p.m. at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, you can help celebrate the launch of “Vignettes & Postcards, Writings From the Evening Writing Workshop at Shakespeare and Company, Paris, Fall, 2011.” This collection of twenty-six stories comes from the workshop, “Leaping Into the Void,” taught by award-winning writer Erin Byrne. The book is edited by Erin and Anna Pook, ongoing instructor of the workshop. For more information, visit Shakespeare and Company Bookstore.