Saturday, November 28, 2015

La Marseillaise is back

Today there was a very moving tribute to those who died in the Paris attack of November 13. The chosen venue for its austerity and splendor, and security, was the yard at L'Hotel des Invalides, built by the Sun King and that is used without any remorse by La République. At the end of the ceremony the French anthem was powerfully sung by all the political participants from all crosses of the republic, all security forces and, I dare to venture, at least 90% of the victims relatives that attended.

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


  1. HalfEmpty9:51 AM

    That was fantastic Daniel. France nearly died after Verdun and was nearly extinguished in June 1940, but The French are like cats, the number of their lives is unknowable. I say this as an ex-Fracophobe who had his mind changed by watching Le Tour for 3 weeks while I was in rehab.

    But still, traditions are hard to break, :)
    Punch line is "So the Germans can march in the shade"

    You supply joke. :)

  2. Charly1:55 PM

    Very moving this interpretation of the complete version of the National Anthem.

  3. Anonymous4:09 PM

    In Canada, we learned the French National Anthem in school in our French classes. 50 years later, I can still remember the words :-}

  4. I'm afraid you're getting a bit carried away here. Being half French, and after talking to all of my French friends for decades, you may be disregarding the deep impact of a Muslim Invasion. Sans blague. And Germany will also feel the effects, for decades to come. And Belgium.. We are way too politically correct. As an Agnostic, I am highly skeptical about all little religious bookins. And their translations and misinterpretations. But the freaking Koran is something else.

    Last I checked, the mexicans don't wear suicide belts in Tijuana, the Buddhists are very darn peaceful, even in Myanmar lately, the Hindus do not even eat sacred cows and don't cry Jihad 5 times per day when they pray, the Mormons or the Jews do ot blow up the Twinn towers or Madrid or Charlie Hebdo or Mali. Common denominator? A little 21st century messed up specific religion.

    Ok. There was a local stupid red-neck terrorist in Colorado, anti abortion stuff yesterday in the USA. Hard to belive it was not another Muslim Jihad attack against the infidels. La France est foutue, et l"Europe aussi. Juste comme l'Espagne a ete grillee pendant 8 siecles des Moros, mais bien pire. Cas ces fous furieuz musulmans ont envahi deja le pays, et quand ca ce calme, il vont continuer leur merde. A Paris ou a Marseilles ou a Berlin. Avec leurs sacrees barbichettes. So enjoy the patriotic celebrations while they last 4 Millions Syrians and millions of Isis Muslim Lunatics will not "blend in" in peace&love any time soon in Europe.

    1. Roberto Carlos3:17 AM

      Sledge, Daniel responded to one of my posts a couple of weeks back stating that Muslims in France work 9 to 5 like everyone else.
      He either hasn't been to the non-touristy areas in France in a long time or we lost him to the irrational left that on the one hand is for all 'modern' civil rights causes while simultaneously and conspicuously supporting the massive invasion that despises everything he is for.

    2. Well, I have not been to France since 2009, but I trust what all my French friends who live there or have family in Lyon or Paris tell me. The Mosques are everywhere. They refuse to eat regular food at schools. They pray 5 times a day to some obscure Mohamed prophets (depending on the various twisted semi-Jihadist or full-Jihadist interpretation of that dude). They still wear full black Burkas. And they usually do 98.93% all of the attacks and suicide bombings everywhere for decades. They admit they don't like France or Europe, and that they want Mosques everywhere, they want to transform or kill the "Infidels" . Intolerant. Violent. Insane. You can always dream that they are learning German these days in Berlin, and learning how to cook sausages for Christmas..

  5. I've lived in Europe for 3 years and Japan for a couple years. I've also spent about a year in Argentina.

    My view on the French and Japanese is that they are not so much self assured as self contained. The Japanese have a very singular culture in that the country is much different from anywhere else even other countries in Asia. Most Japanese though do not seem to me to be all that self assured at this moment in time.

    I have a great admiration for the Japanese people due to their work habits and character. In Japan, a person can lose their way. All a person has to do is make it known to almost anyone that they are lost or need some other help. It is almost a given that whomever they ask for help from will indeed provide the help if they are able to do so. Japan is also a very safe country.

    On the other hand, France is not that safe, and I've not been impressed by the willingness of the French to help others at least in Paris. On the other hand, in smaller towns in France, the people seemed more friendly and helpful. One of the funny things I noticed though when traveling on the autobahn from German to France. When the border is crossed, there is much more trash on the French side. The German side is spotless.

  6. In the UK and Canada when one sees things like this:
    or this
    where as usual "Asian" is an euphemism for Muslim,
    I think of the Pact of Umar:

    Houses of the non-Muslims must be short so that each time that they would enter or exit their houses they would have to bend, in a way that it would remind them of their low status in the world.

    Only the Ahmadiyya Muslims make public shows of loyalty honoring fallen soldiers, but they are not accepted as Muslims by most Muslims.


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