Richard Landes, of the blog Augean Stables and the website Second Draft, has recently returned from a trip to France and filed this eminently readable report on which way the wind is blowing in France today (and you don’t need a weatherman).
The situation Landes reports is not reassuring, to say the least. Depending on how one looks at it, the following exchange could be considered hopeful, or not:
We visit old friends from way back (the wife is a childhood friend). They are from the upper classes – educated, Catholic, intellectually lively, international in outlook, with smart kids who travel the globe studying and doing internships. In the past, the husband has taken the principled position of the ostrich in response to my warnings.
Not this time. This time he’s eager to talk, and quite open in his concerns. A description of what I have been trying to say for three years now.
“So what do you think the French will do?”
“Mais nous sommes tétanisés,” he says. [We’re paralyzed.]
What can you do when you pick your head up and see you’re between the tracks and the train is bearing down on you?
The good news: a growing awareness. The bad news: has it come too late?
And then there’s this:
…I was haunted by the remark of an French friend, “The French cannot forgive America for saving them twice”…[T]he French [seem unable] to give the Americans a compliment without taking it back, without re-asserting their primacy in all that really matters. Sa gloire…Like the Arabs, the French were once the leaders of European and global culture (from the 11th to the mid-19th centuries); and like the Arabs, they have a deep sense of grievance at “history gone wrong.”
Is that what’s going on here? Is the obtuseness of the French the product of some deep resentment at America because they sit where the French should sit? Is this their secret bond with the Arabs — the brotherhood of envy?