Paris Journal – the Anti-Anti-Americans

A summer of obsessions in France by Adam Gopnik. to be published in The New Yorker issue of 2003-09-01.
*Illustration / PHILIPPE PETIT-ROULET

It is a bit too long, and could be more concise at times. But it contains many interesting tidbits of information that makes it worth the read.

Even the most resolutely anti-anti-Americans in Paris don¡¯t know what to do about George W. Bush¡ªno one since Joseph McCarthy has been such a gift to anti-Americanism in Europe, and particularly in France. [snip]What the French, from left to right, see as Bush¡¯s shallow belligerence, his incuriosity, his contempt for culture or even the idea of difference¡ªno one in France can forget his ridiculing an American reporter, on his one visit to Paris, for daring to speak to the French President in French¡ªmake him a heavy burden even for the most wholeheartedly pro-American thinker.

I found that last bit of fact interesting. I wonder why it was not reported in the US at all…

This quote simply chilled me to the bone…

¡°What¡¯s happening is simple,¡± Glucksmann said. ¡°There are no longer battles, or Auschwitzes. But anyplace can become an Auschwitz. ¡®I kill, therefore I am¡¯ is the motto of the new generation of murderers. It¡¯s really very easy: the Hutus attacked with machetes and a few machine guns, and committed a genocide of a million people. The Russian Army blunders its way into Grozny, and no one cares or objects. Rwanda and Chechnya are the intimations of Manhattan¡ªthey are rooted in a will to kill no matter whom. The crime is to be,and the act is to kill: to be a Manhattanite on that morning was your crime, as to be a Jew was the crime in Germany.

Call me a sentimentalist, but i do find the following touching.

What is finally moving about the anti-anti-Americans in France is that they are defending a cosmopolitan tradition¡ªthe tradition of the Marshall Plan and the melting pot, where, as B.H.L. rhapsodizes, Daniel Pearl could be Jew and journalist and American and internationalist all at once¡ªthat they continue to identify, stubbornly and, these days, perhaps quixotically, with the United States. What is striking, and a little scary, in Paris this year is the absence of anti-Americanism¡ªof a lucid, coherent, tightly argued alternative to American unilateralism that is neither emptily rhetorical nor mere daydreaming. (In fact, it is easier to find this kind of argument in Britain than in France.)

This made me laugh. What is the deal between the Brits and the French? huh? 🙂

The real threat to France is not anti-Americanism, which might at least have the dignity of an argument, an idea, and could at least provoke a grownup response, but what the writer Philippe Sollers has called the creeping ¡°moldiness¡± of French life¡ªthe will to defiantly turn the country back into an enclosed provincial culture. ¡°For the first time, French people care about their houses,¡± a leading French journalist complains in shock. ¡°That was always a little England thing¡ªand now you find intelligent Parisians talking all the time about home improvements.¡± This narrowing of expectations and horizons is evident already in the French enthusiasm for cartoon versions of French life, as in ¡°Am¨¦lie,¡± of a kind the French would once have thought fit only for tourists. It has a name, ¡°the Venetian alternative¡±¡ªmeaning a readiness to turn one¡¯s back on history and retreat into a perfect simulacrum of the past, not to reject modernity but to pretend it isn¡¯t happening.