French? Did you say 'French'? - All about Bastille Day 2011

Starting quite early in July, Paris becomes a huge barracks. And nobody ever wonders why. Of course, we all know about Bastille Day and its gigantic army parade.

What are we wondering about? I’m using «we». Maybe I should use «some of us» even if the «some of us» group is growing fast now.

French people love the army parade. If they don’t get to be on the Champs Elysées in Paris, they will be stuck in front of their tv set all morning long to watch the parade.

The same way they will stay glued to their tv set whenever there is a royal wedding (even though we tend to be very fond of our Republic) and more than anything else, when the Tour de France (the famous cycle race) gets to Paris on its final stretch.

Lately there has been a sickening debate or should I say, vicious attacks against someone who was bold enough to say aloud what thousands of people think and are afraid to talk about.

France is entering a difficult patch.

2012 will be our presidential and legislative elections year.

Some sort of unofficial election campaign has already started. Some political parties have already chosen their candidate. Some are on their way to get through primaries, a little bit like in the States. Less impressive since there are so many political parties in France.

A woman called Eva Joly has been chosen (elected) as the official candidate to the Europe Ecology/Green Party.

Two days ago, she declared that we should cancel the army parade and replace it with a parade including people who work for the state and NGOs. They would symbolically represent the French Republic that they are serving well and anonymously.

She added that if we still needed a military parade, we should have it instead on November 11th or May 8th.

I’d like to say a few words about Eva Joly. She was born in Norway. She became French 40 years ago after arriving in France, fifty years ago. Of course she has a dual nationality, which in total agreement with European laws.

She has been one of the most reputable judges in France, in charge of financial crimes (often linked to the financing of political parties). Right now she’s one of the Green Party deputies at the European Parliament.

As soon as she uttered the «unthinkable», cancelling the army parade, she was under attack from left to right (down to far-right) for one reason and one reason only: She is not French. Oh really?

We are back to the stinking quagmire about what it means to be French. On Bastille Day of all days.

Please read the Marseillaise so many French people refuse to sing nowadays because besides being filled with violence, it does explicitely say: «What! Foreign cohorts would make the law in our homes... To arms, citizens. Let’s march, let’s march!  That a tainted blood Water our furrows.» This may have been relevant in 1792 since it was written for a revolutionary army. Is it relevant today when so many French people are  said to have «tainted blood» since they were not born in France?

So Ms Joly who has been lawfully elected and represents France at the European Parliament belongs to those «foreign cohorts» whose «tainted blood» should «water our furrows».

In 1968, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, born in France but a German citizen, was deported from France because he was one of the beloved leaders of the student revolution. This is why lots of (French) young people started wearing a button that said: «Me too, I am a German Jew.»

Nowadays, who would sport a button claiming: «I am French even though I was not born in France»?

I know. It’s easy to give lessons.

Lately one of my bad second degree joke about English soldiers in Dunkirk hurt quite a few British readers. (I’ll write a post about it!)

But today, let’s go back to Bastille Day which was the reason why xenophobia swept through our newspapers, radio talks, tv shows, etc.

Ms Joly says and I totally agree with her that if we need an army parade, we should choose November 11th. My faithful readers already know what November 11th has meant to my family.

I know, Armistice Day is supposed to mean peace. But if we need to honor the French army which is now totally professional , why don’t we switch to November 11th?

And why don’t we stop inviting foreign heads of state to our military parades, not because they are foreigners but because they are tyrants and dictators (Baschar el-Assad or Ali Bongo, for example)?

This year, at the last minute due to heavy loss in Afghanistan, our leaders decided to dedicate this  parade to French soldiers at war in faraway lands, especially in Afghanistan.

All I know though is that whenever I think about our 14th of July huge army parade, it smacks of dictatorships (old and present).

Back to Bastille Day again. How bizarre that we chose the 14th of July as our national holiday.

Why not June 27th? One of the most pivotal and peaceful event in our bloody past in 1789: The Tennis Court Oath. The day when French citizens became (almost) equal.

Why not the 26th of August? The day when the last article of our famed «Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen» was voted? This Declaration that has inspired so much freedom in the world.

I really wonder why our ancestors chose the day when a prison was taken over by a riotous crowd (yes, I know, they were to become our revolutionary heroes) to free seven prisoners, mostly if not all of them noblemen, jailed because they had run up debts...

The day when the prison governor and the guards were murdered after surrendering under a flag of truce...

Well, somebody probably had good reasons to choose Bastille Day. But for me and many people like me, all we hear that day is some terrible war rumble.

By the way, have you ever read or listened to «Le Chant du Départ»? It was written in 1794... another revolutionary song. It became our national anthem during the Great War. A few French presidents tried to reinstate it. But «La Marseillaise» won, once and for all.

What do I worry so much about? I am so lucky after all. I was born French in France.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

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