Every American in France Has Two Countries
We were glued to CNN, but it was really too early with just a lot of talk about predictions of the outcome of the U.S. presidential race. We picnicked on Chinese food from the local “traiteur” and packaged cold foods from the Franprix. And we discussed what the newscasters and experts were saying, what they were wearing, if they were looking good or not and in general how the outcome of the election was going to affect our lives.
One of our readers who is an ardent Republican writes me regularly with his views knowing we are largely opposed. Our debate is friendly. Today I dropped him a note: “You’re going to lose today, you know that, right!?” to which he retorted: “If I lose today, I fear for the United States of America!” That’s when I responded with, “That’s why you should move to France!”
The truth is it seems the influx to France from the U.S. slowed down once Barack Obama was elected to presidency four years ago. While George W. Bush was in office, I met so many people who were here and complaining about their political frustrations. Once Obama was in office, they were more hopeful living in the U.S., even if they weren’t always happy with the things the man they elected to office did or didn’t do.
The international world has supported Obama. Outside the U.S. they love him. CNN yesterday interviewed people all over the world and the support for a mixed-race leader of the United States was clear. But do American’s care what the rest of the world thinks? I don’t think so.
We Americans living outside of the U.S. do care, of course. We’re living it every day — living among non-Americans who don’t share our same views on how our lives should be lived. They try to understand us and how we think, just as much as we’re trying to understand them and how they think.
The French are watching this election with earnest. I’m not sure if they stayed up all night to watch the blow-by-blow returns on CNN as we did, dozing off and waking up again on the hour when the polls closed on each U.S. time zone to see the states go blue or red one at a time.
CNN’s prediction for a win by Obama arrived this morning at 5:20 Paris time. We stayed awake long enough to hear Barack Obama’s victory speech, to which I am listening again as I write this. It was possibly the best he’s ever given and throughout the discourse, tears fell from my eyes. It choked me up in a way that surprised even me. And then I thought about what it’s like to be an American living in France — the conflict of what we love about both our homes.
To Thomas Jefferson we attribute the saying “Every man has two countries – his own and France” although this exact wording has never been found in his writings. Scholars believe that it may have derived from the quote, “So ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, in what country on earth would you rather live? Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice? France.” As it turns out, according to monticello.org/, “the specific quote has been traced back to Henri de Bornier’s play, La Fille de Roland (1875), in which Charlemagne utters the line, ‘Tout homme a deux pays, le sien et puis la France.'”
Perhaps this is how we feel, we Americans who live in France, who get teary-eyed over hearing American rhetoric out of the mouths of our politicians. France does not share the same ideals as the U.S. We all know that this is by no means the land of opportunity where someone of any ethnic origin or social class can become president of the nation. This is not now, since the last election, where one can work hard and earn more — as ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy promoted to move the French a little further to the right and failed. And it’s not a place where they teach ‘thinking outside the proverbial box.’
But in contrast, this is where everyone has affordable health care, free and quality eduction for their children, guaranteed retirement benefits and a higher quality of life for all. This is a place where being rich doesn’t have anything to do with money, but with enriching ones’ life with culture and intelligent thought.
These are things Americans seem to want, too, by virtue of the choice they made last night. Perhaps there is a new understanding that it’s a little less important to be rich in the pocket, and more important to be rich in the heart, mind and soul. Today we Americans in France may feel we are even closer to our brethren living in our homeland and not just watching from the sidelines.
That’s how I feel today and why I am donning red, white and blue.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(dressed for an election)
P.S. Ever been to a “write-in?” Likely not, but now you can! WICE is sponsoring a weekly write-in where you can join other committed writers who want to do what they do best: write! I’m hosting the upcoming session on Monday, November 12, where I’ll be talking about what’s it like to write three newsletters a week and where, for two hours, we’re going to write our hearts out! To learn more and participate, visit WICE .
P.P.S. PLEASE BE AN ANGEL TO HURRICANE SANDY VICTIMS!! For $50, purchase an original signed 10″x15″ photograph by Erica Simone and help with relief efforts. 100% of the profits go directly to local hurricane relief programs, including: the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund, the Jewish Federation Relief Fund, Americares, MASBIA, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, and others. Visit BE AN ANGEL.
Also, see Erica Simone on a segment of Antoine De Caune’s TV show on New York this Wednesday, November 7th, at 8:55 p.m. on Canal +. Visit Canal + for more information.
P.P.P.S. Plan on being at WH Smith on Thursday, November 15th at 7 p.m. for an event with Harriet Welty Rochefort, author of FRENCH TOAST, as she presents and signs her latest book, JOIE DE VIVRE. It’s a must read! Complimentary wine will be served.
Please RSVP by responding to this email or on our Facebook page for the event: facebook.com/events/