Sunday, May 8, 2011
8 Mai 1945.
On the anniversary of the armistice of World War II, there is a large French flag flying in the arch of the Arc de Triomphe. This is exceptional because the French are not flag people. One of Xavier's first commentaries on Americans was their hyperactivity in flag flying. I hadn't ever really thought of it before. My parents often decorated their stoop with an American flag, as did most of our neighbors wherever we lived. Xavier was almost shocked at the number of flags one could count from any vantage point in the US. So, I asked other French people about the subject. They agreed. Flying the French flag is somewhat inelegant, something to definitely roll one's eyes at, or puff out his cheeks - at the minimum. It is true, in France, you find French flags sported only outside governmental buildings or on days like today, in prominent places because of a major historical event. People don't generally brandish the French flag in front of their house or in their windows. The colossal irony of this, is of course, France's tendency to nationalism.
The other irony, given the position of this very large French flag and the French flags dotting the large avenue found just through the arch today is what that Avenue has become. It is sad - McDonalds, Starbucks, even Abercombie & Fitch - all hours of the night and day. It is such a shame that the French have surrendered the lovely Champs-Elysées to the Americans (particularly since the Germans eventually surrendered it back to them), while they've insisted so thoroughly on Frenchness everywhere else. Ask José Bové (who, incidentally, is now a legitimate political candidate in le parti communiste).