It's Bastille Day: Vive la France!

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Today is Bastille Day, France’s big national holiday. Historian and author David McCullough has a great piece in the New York Times today urging Americans to “rediscover” the rich relationship which France and the U.S. have traditionally enjoyed. It’s been a rocky relationship at times, but even when our governments haven’t gotten along, the French have always made it clear that they have no beef with the American people, which is realistic since both countries have influenced each other in so many ways. Not the least “influence” — and one that, I have to say, very few U.S. conservatives seem to be aware of, despite their alleged interest in Revolutionary-era history — is that if not for France, our revolution would have no doubt gone down the tubes. The French essentially bankrolled the American revolution (granted, they saw it as a way to hand Britain a big defeat) to the tune of $9 billion in today’s money. And that “Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown” thing? It was a French-designed battle in which French army troops outnumbered George Washington’s army and French ships blocked any possible Cornwallis retreat. One hundred and sixty years later, we repaid that debt by saving France’s bacon in World War II, as we had, though to a much smaller degree, in World War I. When the  French hear that many Americans think they’re “ungrateful” for our help, they invariably point out France’s critical role in America’s very existence and declare the two countries “even.”

McCullough points out that bit of history, and goes on to mention that it was a French architect who designed Washington, D.C. He writes about France’s gift of the Statue of Liberty, and a slew of other Franco-American connections, while noting that more than nine million Americans are of French descent (another million or so are of French-speaking, though not strictly French, descent, including this writer), and that many of us live in places with French-derived names such as Des Moines, New Orleans, St. Louis, Terre Haute, Coeur d’Elene, Vermont, and on and on. And that doesn’t include the fact that some of our greatest artists, as well as doctors, went to Paris to perfect their craft. So at some point today, have a glass of French wine, or some Camembert or Morbier cheese, or wear French cuffs or French perfume, or re-read parts of DeTocqueville’s Democracy In America, or maybe bop some “Freedom Fries” dope on the head with a baguette, and celebrate the long relationship between our two great nations.

American and  French flags fly at the Eiffel Tower    Image by Lonelyplanetimages.com
  • American and French flags fly at the Eiffel Tower Image by Lonelyplanetimages.com

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