We have all heard the sad news about the attacks in Paris. By now you might have heard that the US messed up more than a little bit by not sending someone really important to participate in the million+ person march that took place the next day. The failure to show on the part of the US is pretty hard to understand. The only thing I have been able to think of is that most of the attacks of this sort have been against countries, and the US has had our share of those attacks and our representatives thought of the Paris attacks as pretty small compared to 9/11. Yeah, that sounds good. I think I will stick with that story.
But, the new attacks were not against France. They were against basic concepts of civilization as I know it.
The attacks in Paris were targeted against basic human rights. To be specific, the rights of free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. Not to mention Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. To my mind those rights transcend any one nation or time. They are greater than the US and France and deserve a much greater reaction than does an attack on any single country.
Oh well, we definitely messed up on that one. And, you know... I hope the French cut us a little slack. No matter what our government did or didn't do a lot of Americans shed tears over those attacks. I was really hard not to write a knee jerk emotional blog post titled "We Are All Charlie". But, I decide to write something in a lower key and maybe try to tell people how I see the relationship, the deep and abiding relationship, between the US and France.
The US and France have a "peculiar" relationship. I have spent much time and too much research on trying to come up with an analogy that comes close to describing the relationship. I finally decide that the US and France act like brothers, but brothers who both think of themselves as the older wiser brother.
People say that the US has a special relationship with the UK. Fine, I suppose we do. But, it is nothing like the relationship we have with France. It doesn't take much knowledge of history to be able to justify the claim that if there were no France, there very well may have been no US. On the other hand, if the US did not exist the modern history of France would be very different. France may not have survived at all. That is a tie that goes deeper than blood. We are family, adopted brothers in a very dysfunctional family perhaps, but historically when the chips are down you do for family, and the US has always -eventually- shown up for France, and vice versa. We are both countries born in revolution against tyranny. Both countries try (really the US does try) to remember that we are dedicated to the concepts of freedom, liberty, and justice for all people of all nations.
It certainly isn't all roses between the two countries. We can always count on France to let us know when they disagree with us, just like an older wiser brother would, and every time they do some know-nothing in congress tries to change the name of "French Fries" to "Freedom Fries". But, nothing can match the way the French can sneeringly say "filthy Americans". I won't even try to represent in text a sound that only the French can make. That French sneer is high art and deserves to be respected.
I just hope that the French, and everyone else, understand that the US is in this fight. We all need all the help we can get. Watching the way the French and the rest of the world reacted to this set of attacks made me proud to be a human being. The trouble is that the other side are also human beings. This is a conflict between incompatible cultures. Those do not end well. Not well at all.