We will wait for the Americans and the tanks.
General Philippe Petain, 1917
Today is Bastille Day. Our relationship with our oldest ally has been frequently rocky over the years, in spite of the aid France gave us in winning our independence and the fact that the US was instrumental in saving France in two World Wars. As we commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Great War, it is good to recall a time when French and Americans fought so closely together that at times they seemed to be one army.
By 1917 the French Army was in a mutinous state. Millions of Frenchmen were wounded and dead with little to show for it. Petain, the victor of Verdun, was made commander in chief of the French army. He constantly visited units and told them that wasteful, ill-prepared offensives were a thing of the past. Petain had enjoyed a great deal of success with intensively prepared small scale offensives where he could mass overwhelming force against a small enemy section of the immense line of trenches that stretched from Switzerland to the North Sea. He had these type of offensives on a grand scale in mind for a rejuvenated French army in 1918. He also knew two other things: Allied factories were beginning to produce massive amounts of tanks that could spearhead future offensives and America had entered the War: the Yanks were coming! At the conclusion of most of his speeches in 1917 he told his men that they would wait for the Americans and the tanks, a line that never failed to receive thunderous applause from the troops. The average poilu was a brave man and he was willing to die, if need be, to win the War. He was no longer willing to die in useless offensives that accomplished nothing, and Petain understood that.
American troops trickled in during 1917 and received a tumultuous reception from the French. When Colonel Charles E. Stanton, nephew of Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, said at the tomb of Lafayette on July 4, 1917: “Lafayette we are here!” both nations were electrified.
America sent over endless amounts of food in 1917 and 1918 that kept the French from starving. The American Navy helped to master the U-boat threat.
By October 1917 four American divisions were deployed to France. French combat veterans acted as instructors for the troops and much of the artillery was provided by the French. This of course was only the first wave of millions of Americans training in the US to be shipped across the Atlantic in 1918. Continue reading
We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.
CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Too late for Bastille Day, but this reflection by Steven Hayward at Powerline on a book written by French historian Marc Bloch draws my attention. Bloch was not only a historian but in World War I he had been an infantry combat officer, rising to the rank of Captain and earning a Legion of Honor. In the wake of the defeat of France in 1940 he asked a simple question: Why?
Bloch was one of the pre-war founders of the Annales school of historical analysis, which was neither exactly Marxist nor purely “social” history as we know it today, but was an early version of bottom-up meta-history. (Think of it an the anti-Carlyle/great man school, or history without any dominant figures. Fernand Braudel is the best-known figure of this school of thought.)
And yet when France succumbed easily to the Nazi invasion in 1940 despite superior forces on paper, a dumbfounded Bloch found he could only explain it by returning to the old fashioned style of thinking about and writing history. The result was his classic, Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940. His main conclusion is one that no academic historian today would dare to put to paper: France suffered an ignominious moral collapse. The entire book—it is only 176 pages—is a thrilling read, but I’ll confine myself to just a few selections from the final chapter, “A Frenchman Examines His Conscience,” which, with due adjustments, can serve as a warning for our own intellectual flabbiness in the Age of Terror, as well as a reproach to the dessicated academic history of today:
This timidity of the nation at large was, no doubt, in many cases but the sum of the timidity of individuals. . . Whatever the reasons, there can be no doubt that our governors, both individually and as a class, did lack something of that ruthless heroism which becomes so necessary when the country is in danger. . .
Since the gospel they preached was one of seeming convenience, their sermons found an easy echo in those lazy, selfish instincts which exist in all men’s hearts side by side with nobler potentialities. These enthusiasts, many of whom were not, as individuals, lacking in courage, worked unconsciously to produce a race of cowards.
I do not say that the past entirely governs the present, but I do maintain that we shall never satisfactorily understand the present unless we take the past into account. But there is still worse to come. Because our system of historical teaching deliberately cuts itself off from a wide field of vision and comparison, it can no longer impart to those whose minds it claims to form anything like a true sense of difference and change.
A million Frenchmen marched on the capital of France, Paris, in defense of Marriage this past weekend. Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Homosexuals, Heterosexuals, Men and Women all marched to protest François Hollande’s attempt at completing the destruction of the Family and the Church which began in the French Revolution and continued with the May 68ers, has been stalled at the moment.
The French don’t care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.
Professor Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady
As longtime readers of this blog know, I have a weakness for humorous posts. However, it is increasingly difficult to come up with imaginative pieces more humorous than reality.
The hooting and catcalls began as soon as the Cabinet minister stood, wearing a blue and white flowered dress. It did not cease for the entire time she spoke before France’s National Assembly. And the heckling came not from an unruly crowd, but from male legislators who later said they were merely showing their appreciation on a warm summer’s day.
Cecile Duflot, the Housing minister, faltered very slightly, and then continued with her prepared remarks about an urban development project in Paris.
“Ladies and gentlemen, but mostly gentlemen, obviously,” she said in a firm voice as hoots rang out. She completed the statement on her ministry and again sat down. None of the men in suits who preceded her got the same treatment from the deputies, and the reaction was extraordinary enough to draw television commentary and headlines for days afterward.
The same French Assembly on Tuesday took up a new law on sexual harassment, more than two months after a court struck down the previous statute, saying it was too vague and failed to protect women. In the meantime, there has been nothing. All cases that were pending when the law was struck down May 4 were thrown out. And, without a law, there can be no new cases. Continue reading
This is a somewhat humorous map of how Americans view Europe.
A Geography of Prejudice is one way of calling what Yanko Tsvetkov created.
From Father Zuhlsdorf:
Prepare to be disgusted and then edified.
This from LifeSite with my emphases and comments:
Catholics Defend French Cathedral de Lyon During Homosexual “Kiss-In”
By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
LYONS, June 17, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Approximately 200 young Catholics came to the defense of the Cathedral of Lyons, France, during a “kiss-in” protest held by homosexuals in front of the building last month.
The homosexuals reportedly came on the eve of the “World Day Against Homophobia” in May to kiss each other in front of the cathedral, [vile] presumably in protest against the Catholic Church’s 2,000-year-old condemnation of homosexual sex acts. [I believe the condemnation is in the Old Testament as well. It is also written into our being as images of God.]
Perusing the local used bookstore last weekend, I came across a copy of the Third Volume of the Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. On the whole (or, rather, through the first hundred pages or so), they make an enjoyable light read, at least for Lewis fans. He is always readable and often insightful. Moreover, the letters offer an interesting window into life in mid-twentieth century England. It’s rather striking that six years after the end of the Second World War, common items like envelopes and certain foods were still either rationed or unavailable (many of the letters are expressions of thanks to sympathetic American friends who have sent Lewis one package or another). Here, in no particular order, are a few passages I found either amusing or interesting:
Writing to a U.S. Friend About the Korean War
“Seriously, though, we all sympathize with you in the position into which you have been forced; it’s all very well to call it a UNO war, but so far as I can gather, it is a USA war. Have you noticed the French contribution? One gunboat!”
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose….
Like many intellectual men in Revolutionary America and Western Europe, Alexander Hamilton bought into the Deist ideas of a Creator, but certainly not a Creator who needed a Son to rise from the dead or perform miracles, and certainly not the continuous miracle of the Eucharist. Most leaders of the American Revolution were baptized Anglicans who later in life rarely attended Sunday services, the exception being George Washington. The first President was the rare exception of a Founding Father who often attended Anglican-Episcopal Services, though he occasionally did leave before Holy Communion, which many intellectuals in the colonies (and most of England) decried as “popery.”
Hamilton was a unique man, who unlike many of the Revolution was not born in the colonies, but in the Caribbean and was born into poverty at that. He was practically an orphan as his father left his mother and she subsequently died from an epidemic. At a young age Hamilton showed so much promise that the residents of Christiansted, St Croix (now the American Virgin Islands) took up a collection to send him to school in New England. As a child, Hamilton excelled at informal learning picking up on what he could from passersby and those who took the time to help him. In August of 1772, a great hurricane hit the Caribbean. Hamilton wrote about it in such vivid detail that it wound up being published in New York.
It was at this point that the residents of Christiansted answered the local Anglican pastor’s request and enough money was raised to send Hamilton to school in the colonies. While in school, Hamilton would excel and wound up in the Revolutionary Army as a young officer. By the time of Yorktown, General Washington thought enough of the 24 year old to have him lead a charge on one of the redoubts of Yorktown. It was here that the “Young Americans” and their French counterparts on land and sea, overwhelmed the British and the world turned upside down.
The French Revolution had the effect of lessening anti-Catholicism in England. The English admired the courage with which many Catholics fought against the Revolutionaries in France and tolerance was extended to French Catholic refugees in England. This was a great change as all the French had traditionally been regarded as the mortal enemies of the English. Edmund Burke began to change this traditional attitude with his Reflections on the Revolution in France. Here are his comments on Marie Antoinette:
“It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy. 0h, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.
But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.”
For the benefit of Mr. Robertson. The Haitians revolted during the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon I. The Haitians were never ruled by Napoleon III (1852-1870), having their independence recognized in 1825 by France. Although Voodoo has been sadly ubiquitous in Haiti, there is no evidence of a pact between Satan and Haitian insurgents, although Robertson is not the only person to propound this myth, which is quite common in some evangelical circles. A good article debunking this myth is here and here. This of course is far from the first time that Pat Robertson has said something factually challenged and insulting, although considering the vastness of the tragedy, Robertson expounding his kook theory at this point as Haiti mourns countless dead and lies prostrate is truly beneath contempt. Certain Catholic religious orders enjoin silence for the good of the souls of their members. Mr. Robertson could benefit by following their example.
For those wishing to donate to Catholic Relief Services for Haiti, here is a link.
Never in a million years would I have expected a Frenchman, any Frenchman living today, to chide an American president to be a man. Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan are rolling over in their graves as French President Nicolas Sarkozy reminds President Obama, our president,that “we live in a real world, not a virtual world“.
This episode between Sarkozy and Obama occurred prior to President Obama’s I have a dream of a world without nuclear weapons disarmament speech as chair of the United Nations Security Council meeting on September 24. An American holding the chair of the U.N. Security Council was a first, so the foreign media was out in force attracting global attention. Unbeknownst to the world at the time President Obama, as well as Sarkozy, had intelligence that Iran had an illegal uranium enrichment facility.
So instead of using the bully pulpit as the leader of the free world and his superior oratory skills to admonish Iran at the United Nations Security Council, Obama chose to give his I have a dream of a world without nuclear weapons disarmament speech. The New York Times reported “White House officials,” did not want to “dilute” his disarmament resolution “by diverting to Iran.”
There’s been much discussion of late about what other country’s health care apparatus the US should consider emulating, and in such discussions France is often mentioned. Now, all cheerful ribbing against the French aside, their health care system is not nearly as “socialized” or nearly as afflicted by treatment denials and waiting lists as those of the UK or Canada. It is also rather more like the system that the US already has, in that it is a hybrid public/private system, though in their case there is a guaranteed base level of coverage everyone has through the government (funded via a hefty payroll tax — not unlike Medicare) which most people supplement with private coverage. Most doctors are in private practice, and 25% do not even accept the public plan, just as some practices in the US do not accept Medicare. However, everyone does have that minimum level of coverage, and the French spend a lower percentage of their GDP on health care than the US (11% versus 16%) which when you take into account that France’s GDP per capita is a good deal smaller than that of the US (which is the polite, economist way of saying it’s a poorer country) works out to the US spending about twice as many dollars per person on health care, while still not having universal coverage.
So what are we waiting for? Why don’t we go enact the French system here right now? Why doesn’t Obama put on a jaunty beret, dangle a cigarette coolly from the corner of his mouth, hoist a glass of wine, and just say, “Oui, nous pouvons.”
Salvete AC readers!
Here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:
1. The great Cardinal Pell offered his thoughts on the future of liturgical development by stating that ad orientem will be mandatory so as to move away the priest as the center of worship back to Jesus Himself, ie, both the priest and the congregation should be facing towards God. In addition, when the priest turns away towards the congregation, there should be a crucifix in between he and the congregation so as to maintain the center of worship God and not the priest. What a wonderful and great Cardinal that Australia has! Let us pray for more such strong leaders of the Church worldwide and especially here in America. Ora pro nobis!
For the article click here.
2. Sister Janet Ferns, a nun who has worked in Nigeria and Zambia, has explained what most condoms are used for by the locals in Africa… to fish with.
For the link click here.
Apparently, hattip to Gateway Pundit, our President isn’t sure who the President of France is since he sent a note to former French President Chirac, and Sumo I do hope you are fully recovered, with this sentiment in it: ‘I am certain that we will be able to work together, in the coming four years, in a spirit of peace and friendship to build a safer world.’ The current President of France is not amused.
For the benefit of any Obama staffer who may come across this, the current President of France is Sarkozy. Your boss has had his picture taken with him. He has a supermodel new wife. There are no poodle bite mark scars on him. There, never let it be said that I am unwilling to help the new administration!
Our oldest ally is France, the nation that proved vital in our War for Independence. I sometimes share the annoyance felt by many Americans towards France.