I'm reading an excellent book The Discovery of France," and it is full of the development of mapping, geography & communications all across that beautiful country, which 300 years ago was simply a collection of several hundred pays, each with its own cheese, of course. Dialects from Languedoc north are studied and the book meanders through time and space in a well-read depiction of France through the eyes of its own and English writers over the last three centuries. But I digress.
What is it about Sarah Palin that makes her tick? I believe that she is Everywoman, American Style, to the nth degree. She is an Aquarius [Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Saturn] and has a Neptunian hold on the American population, with an earthy charisma oozing out of her fingertips. Simply an American original and her son Track, who is off to Iraq Sept 11th, is about the handsomest young man I've seen except perhaps for her star athlete son-in-law to be, Levi.
This has been the most tumultuous election since 1968, which I participated in from the Wisconsin Primary through the Chicago Convention all the way to a Senate race in New York State. Wearing my McCarthy National Staff badge, I met Bobby Kennedy, who asked me to join his national staff in LA while speaking in Watts/Compton with a pick-up full of Green Bay Packers [and Roosevelt Grier]. A week later, he was dead & I was in NYC outside St. Patrick's Cathedral.
I went back to the U. of Michigan & got into SDS politics & all sorts of illegal activities, until asked to join the State Dept. as an FSO. I spent two years as Vice Consul in Lyon & was invited to be junior political officer in the Paris Embassy but declined.
I have since regarded the French with mixed feelings, as they are weird and illogical beyond belief, despite their fetish for Cartesian thinking.
French readiness to take a dark, even irrational, view of America was on display again this week when Jean-Marie Bigard, a popular comic and actor, proclaimed his belief in the conspiracy version of September 11 2001.
"It is absolutely sure and certain now that the two planes that crashed on the (Pennsylvania) forest and the Pentagon never existed. There was never a plane... It is a vast lie", he said on Europe 1, a popular national radio station. After a dressing down by his managers, Bigard apologised today but he did not retract the view, which is shared by many in France as we have seen here before (The New York Times had a good piece yesterday on the consensus in the Middle East that 9/11 was a US conspiracy).
You can dismiss Bigard's ideas as provocation by a loud-mouthed celebrity except that some people take him seriously. President Sarkozy is a friend and even invited him along on a recent trip to the Vatican and presented him to Pope Benedict XVI.
To take the argument full circle, Sarkozy is a good example of the French Americophile. He loves the ideal United States to the point of excess, as he showed in his rapturous speech to Congress last autumn. He admires the power, the can-do outlook and the style (His Hungarian-born father has even said that he would have preferred his boy to be president of the USA.)
But Sarko has trouble understanding the real America. He has never learnt its language. Carla Bruni, his supermodel wife, a one-time New York City resident, has been briefing him. She offered a telling glimpse the other day in a Europe 1 interview. She said that Sarko did not listen much to "Anglo-Saxon" music. He prefers French pop and rock artists because he understands the words, she said. One of his favourites is Johnny Hallyday, the evergreen rock idol. Known once as the "French Elvis", Hallyday has of course spent nearly 50 years perfecting his act as France's idea of an American.
Johnny even customized one of his great hits in Sarkozy's honour. Its title, Quelque chose de Tennessee became Quelque chose de Sarkozy.
One can understand an ignorant benighted collection of Arabs thinking of 9/11 as a conspiracy, but for the French to do so demonstrates their fundamental incapacity for rational thinking, despite their high-falutin' philosophical semiotic nonsense & feedback loops.
Back in the 19th century after the Franco-Prussian War, there was a political shibboleth "Can 40 million Frenchmen be Wrong?"
Mais oui, bien sur