Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Vive La France!

Like BH, my first (and so far only) trip to France came in the mid 80s. Spring of 85 I think. Unlike BH, I haven't been back. Although we were in the same French classes, I wasn't the linguistic prodigy that BH was (and is). So I went with the generic "class trip" accross the Atlantic, not as an exchange student. Still, I had a blast.

Perhaps most significantly for me was the sense of history. Being part of a tour group, one doesn't really "get to know" France. But just walking around Paris, or visiting medieval sites gives one a sense of history that we don't get in America.

Then again, I get the impression that American history is far more vital and alive than European history. I had the good fortune to get to know several Europeans while I was in grad school. Talking politics one night, they seemed to find it quaint and naive that Americans viewed our own history as something that is dynamic and unfolding before our eyes, and ... most importantly... something we have the power to impact. What made this most shocking to me was that this was after the fall of communism, and the fall of the Berlin wall. The attitude from my European friends was a stark contrast to seeing the cheering crowds on TV.

Their attitude about America was also enlightening. There was a love of being in America, and a resentment of America in the world. Not a European, but I also remember that night being lectured by a white South African about how racist America is. Amazing how poor perspective some people have.

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