Although not clear for non French national the tribune behind the president, all alone in front, included all relevant figures, from all ex prime ministers, figures from both extremes, high army officers mixed with civilians, and more. All freezing cold together in republican unity behind the figure of the state. You have to give it to the French for Republican restrained but telling pageantry, one that only the US may outdo. Republic is not an empty feeling.
|(Mayors are the only officials allowed to wear the tricolor sash)|
The values of the republic are obvious from those pictures, there is no need for me to discuss except to note that these values are cruelly missing today in Venezuela where such a gathering is today unthinkable.
I have refrained to discuss the terror attacks on Paris two weeks ago because I could not believe I would had to do such twice in a year. And then, the show of national unity moved me, made me proud of my French passport (a feeling I have lost about my Venezuelan passport circa 2009).
These days in Paris there is the palpable feeling that comes from the distinction between patriotism, the love of your countrymen, and nationalism, the hatred of what is foreign. And perhaps nothing shows it more than the revival of the French anthem, La Marsellaise.
I may be wrong about this but from my years in the US I met a lot of foreigners and as it turned out, a lot of Japanese colleagues. I came to think that Japanese and French were, curiously, cultures closer than one would expect a priori. The point is that only Japanese seem as self assured of their cultural origins and "superiority" than the French. This seems so self-evident for us that we do not feel threatened by other cultures. We do not need to travel as some do with a bottle of ketchup or can "diablitos" if you come from Venezuela.
The paradox here is that this self confidence of the French make us have little attachment to some exterior signs of our nationality. If we live overseas, like I do, we are more likely touched by our anthem than those living in France, who may even consider it gauche and pedestrian to wave the flag or sing La Marseillaise in public. The terror attacks of November 13 may have put an end to this.
In the last two weeks there has been a rather extraordinary display of the "bleu, blanc, rouge" to the point that the government asked the population to try to display the French flag everywhere possible. This request would have been inconceivable on November 12, and even less coming from a socialist government. We are told that these days the French army is beating all records for new recruits, and beyond. And now most of us have no qualms singing La Marseillaise in public.
This new found reverence for our anthem may be something that IS/DAESH did not anticipate and may be sorry for it.
It was not easy for La Marseillaise to gain status, no matter how exciting was its music. Napoleon dropped it and we had to wait for the third Republic in 1879 to have it as the national anthem, something that was not amusing for the monarchies controlling the rest of Europe then. In fact La Marseillaise was the revolutionary chant until finally others emerged like the Internationale.
The words of its first stanza sound even bloodier today than what they used to be; "bloody banners" "ferocious soldiers roaring" "slaughtering your children and women" "grab your weapons citizens" "drown your soil with impure blood". And yet, it survived and is even considered to have one of the easiest tunes to sing along, certainly a reason for its popularity.
But the Marseillaise words also remind folks that France has a warrior past that cannot be forgotten just because the country collapsed ignominiously in one single month of 1940, something that the ancestral enemies of France are fond of recalling. Even friends like the US...
What the terror attack has done, unwillingly, is to wake up this warrior past of France, forgotten since 1940 and the unwinnable wars in Vietnam and Algeria. The peacenick side of France has always been fashionable since the 60ies, and today it is questioned seriously. Of course that does not mean we are going to go to Napoleonic warfare again, times have changed fortunately. But I, for one, was disconcerted a little with how easy it was for socialist president to "declare" war on IS and get near unanimous support at home. Not even in the US Bush had it that easy. IS will be punished, it has been agreed on.
If the IS launched its attacks to shame France, to feed its internal divisions, right now it seems to have badly backfired. France is as united as it has been since WW2, with a patriotic fervor that goes without cheap chauvinism and without hatred. France is reawakening and I think the French may be the most surprised at it. The problem here is mostly for the large Muslim community inside France who now will have to join in and accept that they are French in a secular state. Or? We will see, but we can be sure that this play is just starting.
I am leaving you with this video from today about La Marseillase alone. Enjoy and be thrilled. Aux armes citoyens, sing it aloud and feel