Obama for President of France!
You likely read this “Nouvellettre®” because you want to hear about life in France. I’ve been writing about my life in Paris (an now in Nice, too) since 1998 and during all these years pumping out missives at least three times a week and often more, have focused on what it’s like for an American living in France, dealing with the cultural differences, the French bureaucracy and the nuances of our languages.
Being resident in France definitely doesn’t make one “French.” Having French citizenship, makes for a citizen, but doesn’t make that person French. If you were born and raised an American, then you will likely always be an American. And we Americans tend to wear our “Americanism” on our sleeves, even after living here as long as someone like me has — now more than 22 years.
Most Americans living in France are politically on the left. It interested me to understand why that is and found numerous Web sites that describe the differences between Democrats and Republicans, including this one. But that didn’t help explain why Americans who live outside of the U.S. tend to lean left, so I dug a little deeper and found one very poignant explanation: “Democratic policy overtly makes room for diverse cultures, which resonates with the lifestyles of dual-citizen Americans or those who have chosen to marry someone from another country.” (quora.com/)
Clearly that’s not necessarily true for every expat, but it’s a broad generalization with which I’d wholeheartedly agree. One thing that isn’t noted, is that for Americans living in a Socialist Democracy, such as France, we understand the benefits of the socialist idea better than any American who has never lived in such a system can. We see the ills of the system, too. We’ve broadened our experience and therefore our opinion on what works and what doesn’t, finding that the only true utopia can be found when there is a balance of ideas, not heavy on one side or the other.
When I was a mere 20 years old, I lived for a year on a purely socialist-run kibbutz in Israel. We worked X number of hours per day at whatever job suited us best and had the rest of the day free, with one free day per week (Shabbat, or the sabbath). We were given housing and we took our meals in the “chadar ha ochel” — a communal dining room — like a cafeteria where the food was prepared for you by the kibbutznikim who worked in the kitchen (for a couple of months, I washed the dishes three times a day for 750 people…by hand). The children slept in the “gan” (the children’s house) apart from their parents, with whom they visited for a few hours each evening. (I was a nanny for a while in the gan where the kids learned to be very independent — and this was a big privilege for a volunteer such as myself.) We were given an allowance to spend in the kibbutz store and our laundry was dropped off and picked up a few days later, clean and pressed (I worked in the laundry, too, for a while ironing shirts.)
I recognized then that it was a very valuable experience to live in a purely socialist environment and to see the upsides and downs. It was a stress-free way of life. The only pressure was to do your best at whatever job you did, because no one earned more or less for doing a different job. This is why I had so many different jobs — experimenting until I found the things I was best at doing. Power came, if you wanted it, by being involved in the political and administrative side of running the kibbutz. Otherwise, everyone was equal and treated that way. At the age of 20, I saw the benefits as well as the disadvantages of such a system.
France is a democracy with a constitution just like the U.S. of A. It declares itself to be an “indivisible, secular, democratic, and social republic.” This does not make it “socialist,” but it’s well known that most of the French fear extreme capitalism — the kind they see in the U.S. which offers very little in the way of government-sponsored benefits, such as universal health care, free higher level education and employment protection policies. We, like the native French, enjoy many of these benefits and see plusses and minuses more clearly than if we had never lived here, therefore living in France and experiencing this viewpoint on life contributes to why Americans living in France tend to lean to the left politically.
I’ve personally become acutely more aware and active since this last U.S. presidential election. We all have. It’s just about all we talk about. That was never true before. Even when the George W. Bush was in office, it wasn’t on our tongues every minute of every day like it is now following the daily tweets by the man for whom everyone has a different nickname. (I think I like “45” best of all, because it’s neither complimentary nor derogatory.)
The French are as concerned as are the Americans living here. They experienced World War II first hand and lived through German occupation. They never want that to happen again and fear the possibilities. The latest result and in fact, the funniest news to hit the media, is the campaign in France to nominate and elect Barack Obama as President of France! (obama2017.fr/)
My signature this morning on the petition was the 43,562nd. Begun as a joke among friends, the poster-driven campaign illustrates how the French feel about their current candidates for president and their fear of the increasing support of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate who is now leading in the polls. It’s a radical idea to elect a foreign president to head France and by this action, show their never-ending love for the U.S. former president as well as their disapproval of what is happening in their own country. The proponents are hoping for a million signatures to convince Obama to run in their May 2017 election. (Add yours if you agree!)
I’ve been hopeful all along that the French will see what has come from the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land and how following suit in France with Marine Le Pen is going to put France in the same direction. That’s not what this group wants…clearly. Their slogan: “Oui on peut.” (Yes, we can.) So, it looks like they heard my prayers. Unfortunately, one requirement to become president of France (introduced by Charles de Gaulle in 1962) is that the candidate must be a French citizen. (He/she must also be at least 18 years of age and have no criminal convictions and must have a bank account!)
So, in actuality, if France were to grant M. Obama citizenship and allow him to open a French and therefore “foreign” bank account, he could run for office against Marine Le Pen and likely win! This comes at a time when Donald Trump “trashed” Paris in his February 24th CPAC speech (Conservative Political Action Conference), to which Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and French President François Holland retaliated. Trump candidly spoke about a friend named “Jim” who used to love traveling to Paris, but comes no more because, as he told it, “Paris is no longer Paris,” implying that the city is no longer safe due to the terrorist attacks in the last few years.
Mme. Hidalgo immediately posted on Twitter a photo of her alongside American icons, Mickey and Minnie at the Eiffel Tower, with a message to Mr. Trump and his friend Jim, that “we celebrate the dynamism and the spirit of openness of Paris.” Hollande stated, “I think that it is never good to show the smallest defiance toward an allied country. I wouldn’t do it with the United States, and I’m urging the U.S. president not to do it with France.”
France isn’t the only European country to show their defiance. In a carnival parade in Düsseldorf just a few days ago, a float showing no mercy toward the U.S. President, shows Trump raping the Statue of Liberty. An interesting point of view, wouldn’t you say? And it’s just the tip of the iceberg coming out of Europe in their disapproval of the newly elected president. (See the story in The Local)
This is what life is like in France at the moment. It isn’t only the Americans who are “eaten up” with the daily news about Donald Trump. The whole world is watching closely. For Americans living abroad, it can be disconcerting and difficult as we try to explain how this happened after being so proud of our eight years led by such an elegant, eloquent and intelligent man such as Barack Obama who was loved all over the world. Many living here have joked that they have taken to claiming to be Canadian when asked, rather than submit to the embarrassment of being American.
I’m not one of those, and will always be proud of being an American and of what I always believed America stood for: life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Is that really what we have? Or are we losing it with every single day of the current “deconstructionism” of it? I wonder.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. For our New York friends, if you’ve never seen Gay Marshall, here’s your chance! No one can sing Paris like Gay’s Paris. She’s back at Pangea in the East Village with Ian Herman on piano this coming March 15, 22, 29 and April 5th — 7:30 p.m. For reservations, visit Pangea’s site or call +1 212 995 0900. Say hello and tell Gay that Adrian sent you!