I think the French National Anthem is my second favourite. English newspapers are printing the words so that football fans can sing along tonight as England play France in a friendly international. But there is a certain irony because the words would send a shiver down the spine of aristocrats and foeigners alike.
The Marsailles is the song of the French Revolution. Perceived in the palaces in London, Berlin, Moscow and Vienna as Terror…France was a “rogue state exporting Terrorism”. It is a familiar pattern …the French Summer of 1789 descended into Chaos and Terror. Attrocities like babies being crucified on the doors of churches. So a few years ago we had the Arab Spring in Egypt, Libya….Syria. And we have Terror exported and babies crucified.
French people understand the pre-Napolean Terror. The treatment of the young Dauphin is just one stain on the Revolution ,,,,and the French and the rest of the democratic world regard the French Revolution as a good thing. And even an anthem that warns that French fields will bloom from the blood of its enemies is sung heartily by French schoolchildren.
One of the most annoying aspects of the 21st century has been the disgraceful way France has been represented in United States and Britain. If it wasnt for USA, the French would be speaking German so French fries become “freedom fries”. Of course if it wasnt for the French, Americans would be speaking a much better form of English and having “chips with everything”.
And that American Revolution experience was fairly reciprocal. The French Army and Navy dispatched to deal with a common enemy at Yorktown were sent by a King….but a lot of French soldiers quite liked this new “Republic” and brought the message home.
So American and French history are entwined. And was it only last week that I read a “joke” online ….the colours of the American Flag on the Moon have faded to white and aloens are confused as they think the French got there first.
Yet nobody is saying it this week. France is the “oldest ally of the United States”
Not that it is much better in England. An entire generation of English stand-up comedians has grown rich on jokes about French surrenders and how Britain saved French arses in World War Two. Actually its more complicated than that. French and British arses who had both honourably gone to war in defence of Poland in 1939 were saved by United States…who had only gone to war when it was attacked in 1941?
Easrlier this year the narrative was Wellington defeating Bonaparte at Waterloo (1815-2015). Today it is all “Entente Cordiale”.
So the French are not exactly the “cheese eating surrender monkeys” of 21st century myth.
Not that the French are perfect. The Indo-China Empire became America’s Vietnam. And post-WW2 as the French and British empires (on American orders) collapsed …the excesses in Algeria mirrored British excesses in Kenya.
But as Americans have adopted the French this week, so too have the British ….the old enemy is now an old rival on the football field and by a quirk of fate, tonight’s match …a friendly …is the first that France will have played since the traumatic events of Ftriday night.
There was something crass about American and British attitudes to France for more than a decade. The U-turn is just as crass. Will the BBC dedicate a week to French culture with back-to-back episodes of “‘Allo ‘Allo”.
There is not much ambiguity in Ireland about France. In 1690, King Louis sent troops to Ireland to fight a common enemy. As did Republican France in 1798. And the ideals of Republican France inspired Republican Ireland. The Irish Flag a direct copy of the French Flag.
So no U-turn required at last night’s football match in Dublin. Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina. And the great problem with “One Minute Silence” is that a handful of voices can be heard among 60,ooo silences. And a section of the Bosnian support were unpleasantly noisy.
The Bosnian behaviour was a headline which overshadowed Ireland winning the match. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Why?
In simple terms, Europe is not wholly “Christian” and “post-Christian”. Bosnia is a Muslim country and with attrocities committed there less than three decades ago…by Christian Serbs….and with precious little help to the Bosnians from the rest of Europe, it is likely that they were in no mood to listen to lectures on “European Civilisation”.
It keeps getting worse. With the number of refugees reaching the safety of Europe, any risk assessment would say that statistically some Islamist fighters are getting into Paris and London by a trojan horse. It is making us all too nervous. Paranoid….because the second and third generation terrorists are already in Paris andLondon…and fully integrated. In every sense the jihadists speak Europes language.In every sense Europeans do not speak their language.
And as State Governments in USA demand that the Federal Government restrict migration, it demonstrates that the War on Terror is already lost. “Do NOT send your huddled masses” is something that fundamentally changes USA.
And of course the Statue of Liberty is a gift…from France.
War on “Terror” or any Noun does not make sense.
The conflict is between Life and Death. It will get worse.