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American Nights In Le Marais

With the U.S. election only three weeks away, the red, white and blue (not the “rouge, blanc et bleu”) is on everyone’s minds and lips. Even in the French press, the headlines in the newspapers, breaking stories on the TV and the subject lines of our favorite newsletters are all about the U.S. presidential race. Let’s face it, the outcome of this fight to the finish not only affects every American, it affects every individual worldwide…no nation has as much power to control our destinies as the good ol’ red, white and blue.

Americans who live in France have had a particularly tough cross to bear these past couple of years as our leaders have disagreed on key issues. Our friends and families have sometimes questioned (and in some instances, attacked!) our own national pride and loyalty — not only if we should happen to politically agree with the French viewpoint — but even if we don’t and just happen to enjoy living where you can get a good café crème and croissant.

From what I’ve experienced, via French friends, French members of the Parler Parlor conversation group and just in casual conversation with those I’ve met on the street, the French have been genuinely wounded by the anti-France sentiment that has proliferated Stateside and are seeking lots of ways to “kiss and make up.” So, it wasn’t all that surprising when the publicity went up for this weekend’s “Les Nuits Américaines” sponsored by none other than my own Mairie (city hall) of the 3rd arrondissement.

Posters and brochures touting the Statue of Liberty, the American flag and the red, white and blue are all over the quartier and in other parts of town. These two days of events promoting Americanism are not for the Americans…it’s for the French!

The publicity states: “With the U.S. elections taking place November 2, 2004, the city hall of the 3rd organizes two nights of cultural programming to explore and understand the United States of America…its history, its myths, its society, its political system, etc.” It kicks off on Friday, October 15th at 5 p.m. in the salons of the Mairie of the 3rd, with the Ambassador of the United States, Howard H. Leach, present for the inauguration. From that time until a 5 a.m. breakfast, events will be taking place all night long, then start again Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. the 16th until 1:30 a.m. the 17th.

For a complete listing of events, visit http://www.mairie3.paris.fr/mairie3/jsp/Portail.jsp?id_page=297

In poetic French style, they equate the election with a butterfly…

“Comme le battement d’ailes d’un papillon, ici le vote d’un américain que nous appellerons Sam, provoquera le 2 novembre, une perturbation des habitudes du monde…de l’Afrique à l’Europe, du Moyen-Orient à l’Asie et à l’Amérique du Sud, de la guerre à la paix…le battement d’ailes de ce papillon concernera tout un chacun jusqu’à notre quotidien parisien.”

(Like the flutter of butterfly wings, we have here the American vote, an American we call ‘Uncle Sam,’ which will cause ripples throughout the world — from Africa to Europe, from the Middle East to Asia and to South America, from war to peace…the beat of the wings of this butterfly will affect each and everyone of us in our daily lives.)

The publicity goes on to state that the people of the 3rd arrondissement want to rationally evaluate this world event…it wants to know and understand the voter who has the power to change the world, comprehend the electoral system — how and why it was organized, what American daily life is like and how America has come to a judicial system that favors the death penalty? Does the system have the power to “resist this monster?” What happens to daily life in the face of such economic power? In essence…who is this “Uncle Sam?”

And they don’t forget for a minute that the myths of Uncle Sam fascinate them…the passion of American football, the dreamy Marylin Monroe and the Charlie Chaplin silliness, the emotion of Jazz and the spirituality of Gospel, the tragedy of the Blues and the revolt of Hip-Hop…these two American Nights, free to the public and without interruption, will hardly be enough to turn the heart of Uncle Sam, this American who will vote and try their fate…here’s to the future of the world.

I personally thank you, Pierre Aidenbaum, Mayor of the 3rd arrondissement and Michel Chaudanson, his assistant, for bringing us all so much closer together. I’m so proud to be a resident of your district! You can be sure I (and I hope many of you readers) will be there.

A la prochaine…


Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. Don’t forget to meet us this Tuesday at Parler Paris Après Midi at 3 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais across the street from the city hall of the 3rd! Visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information.

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