Tuesday, May 15, 2007

France’s New Boss

by Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network, 5/15/07

It is part of life’s illusion that the world began the day we were born. Everything prior to our conception is pre-history. For people my age, Howdy Doody was the first Creation Myth (a Western tale), then Davy Crockett (another tale of heading West), Elvis and The Beatles. After that, nothing was left but work and death. Likewise today with my kids: The world begins with Pokemon, then onward and upward to the Brit wizard Harry Potter, Tolkien and “Lost.” Computers were already there at the Creation. TV too, but that is old pre-history stuff like railroad trains and the space program.

But time has its own paths and initiatives; it is not born in forgetfulness, or in the illusion that the world did not exist before we were born. It is always here on its continuum, ascending and descending in death and life like the ceilings in the mosque at Cordoba.

Those of us who were born again with Davy Crockett were also born at the end of things. And the end was a horror that the European world had neither endured nor encountered before.

That ending was marked at Yalta and at the Nuremberg trials, when the Euro world and all the world came to adapt to the American moment. America was driving the bus and as Ken Kesey said, you were either on the bus or not on the bus.

But America moved to its own tempo: We have been through three distinct periods since Yalta: Eisenhower yielded to Kennedy and Kennedy yielded to Reagan. And we today are three-quarters to the end of things in our own post-war arc.

Americans are fast moving beyond the Clinton and the Reagan generations. Those periods allowed us to move forward. And something for us is just ahead and it will hatch either in 2008 or 2012.

Here in 2007 Ron Paul offers new direction, and so do Barack Obama, Mike Bloomberg, Jim Webb and Arnold Schwarzenegger. One or some of these will be the new pathfinders. The purpose and genuine function of this upcoming election will be to cast off that which has become anachronistic and post-seasonal and find the new direction and the new generation that will rise with it.

It is a problem for France because the recent election asked the French to chose between a Thatcher/Reagan candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, and a Hillary composite, Ségolène Royal. Their choice: come into the 1980s or come into the 1990s, both periods being left behind by Americans as the Free World enters the millennium.

The results bring France now to a dilemma.

France and Germany are linked in a binary relationship that rose when the Sun King consolidated France into one big state. What will the French do when they no longer look to America in imitation? And when America’s gaze turns East, and it inevitably will as economy shifts across the Pacific, how will France find its way with Germany?

The election of Sarkozy offers a suggestion. Sarkozy is two things: He is the Reagon/Thatcher Frenchman. He is also an aristocrat from Hungary which was part of the Austrian Empire at the time Robert E. Lee signed at Appomattox. It is the realm of French and German contention since Napoleon.

Shortly before the election, Sarkozy was pictured riding a handsome white horse as Ronald Reagan was pictured on a white horse at the beginning of his Presidency. Sarkozy wants to be the Reagan guy in France and set closer ties with America. But there is an issue here: Ronald Reagan was a genuine, ordinary, American following the same path in the Land of the Free that most others of us followed. He was not an aristocrat. Sarkozy is an actual, Hungarian aristocrat and noble.

Today in the NYTs Serge Schmemann, writer and editor of the Paris-based International Herald Tribune writes that the new French President’s roots are worth remembering.

He recalls an Algerian woman asking the displaced Hungarian nobleman about his roots. Sarkozy said to her, “You are not Algerian, but French. And I am not Hungarian.”

One of America’s most poignant transitions was at Appomattox when Ulysses S. Grant’s Native American adjutant said to Lee, “We’re all Americans here.” That went for Lee, Jeff Davis, Ronald Reagan, myself, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

But not necessarily Royal or Sarkozy. They are not Americans. They are Europeans. If they want to be like us that is good, but for them it is by choice – it is only an option. We are as we are by fate and American destiny.

It would seem that France has to decide now if it wants to be colleague, friend and cousin to America or to Germany and the EU. But two facts enter in: Frankly, most Americans don’t particularly care what France does so long as it doesn’t cause us problems. Second, France is already part of the EU and sits next to Germany, the EU’s most essential partner, as it always has. It is from this for the French as it always has been and from this that there can be no turning away.

We’re all Americans here, said Col. Parker, the Seneca Indian who accompanied Grant. That is true for Lee, Hillary and Obama because when we leave our other places we leave them behind and become a different people. In the end, we are not Europeans or Africans or anything else but Americans. We are the Texas Ranger, died and born again at the hands of the Indian.

But Europeans leave nothing behind. They may look away for awhile but it is always there. And Europe today sings together its own tune, Ode to Joy. It is a beautiful tune but it is not an American tune. Nor is it a French tune. And as France enters the millennium with a Bavarian Pope who looks to an earlier time, it sings a beautiful anthem, but one which has Austrian roots, as does France’s new boss.