The French have lost their pride. Why? Good question. From the taxi driver to Gerard Depardieu, they’re not proud to be French anymore. Some of us may snicker at this notion. The arrogant French losing their pride? Ha! That’s about as contradicting as Marcel Marceau in a speaking part. After all they have Paris! One of the most visited cities in the world. Number one dream destination by people worldwide. A French icon of romanticism, glamour and art.
Eiffel’s tower is a proud exclamation point punctuating the cityscape panorama. But there is something missing from the city. You’ll find it in other cities such as London in the form of The Union Jack or in New York as the Stars and Stripe. Other proud cities. But try to find a local with a French flag printed on their T-shirts. A draped flag on an apartment balcony or a patriotic bumper sticker on a taxi, non existent. Except for the few government buildings flying the French Tricolor, you’ll not find many signs of French patriotism.
Paris is beautiful and undeniably French. So why the personality crisis? Politics. The French are faced with the reality that if they fly the French flag, they’ll be associated with right wing nationalistic zealots. Meaning that they will judged as being bigoted and intolerant. They are conflicted with the concern that if they show pride in their nationality, they could be faced with aggressive opinions from immigrants and others who are not of pure French descent. Bluntly, their afraid to be called racist and get their ass kicked. Gone is the iconic beret wearing Frenchman riding his bicycle and holding a Baguette under his arm. He’s the icon of intolerance. The French Archie Bunker minus the sense of humor.
Perhaps it’s not the fault of the French or their politics. Maybe it is the immigrants that should show the French colors once nationalized. Display their pride of their adopted nationality. One often cited story is that of a football game between France and Algeria. During he game’s opening, the French national anthem was booed by the crowd. And there were more Algerian flag waving than French. Even though most of the Algerian fans were French. So what do politics have to do with this? A football game? The Front National, France’s right wing political party is gaining more strength and support digging the dividing line between French and immigrant deeper. Inevitably, it’s becoming a simple case of black and white.
When wondering the streets of Paris, this division is not so apparent. People of all colors and nationalities seem to be getting along just fine. The city is so immersed in internationalism, that it is almost hard to be solely in the company of Parisians. English has become the prevalent language, to some chagrin. Now that the city is invaded by tourist from Russia, China and South America, the locals have had to adapt to the common and singular Anglo tongue. A little sad perhaps, but the charm of a lovely waitress speaking English with a French accent serving a Café Crème on a sidewalk bistro is absolument délicieux.
Is a flag or label so important after all? Isn’t French patriotism better displayed in culture and ingenuity. They seemed to have consciously decided to be proud in who they are and what they do rather than what they represent. This The French Touch. Subtle and understated. Would Channel No5 be better with a French flag on its bottle?
France has given the world iconic items such as the bicycle, the sewing machine, the metric system, pasteurization, Braille, photography, motion pictures, the stethoscope, parachutes, canning, baguette, the little black dress, bikinis, Daft Punk and obviously Paris. A very short list of incredibly proud achievements. Bravo à tous les Français! Blue, white or red, it doesn’t matter. I am certainly proud of the French. And even though I’m not French, I’m proud to speak French. Vive la France!