Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy’s American love fest could backfire

“But my generation did not love America only because she had defended freedom. We also loved her because for us, she embodied what was most audacious about the human adventure; for us, she embodied the spirit of conquest. We loved America because for us, America was a new frontier that was continuously pushed back--a constantly renewed challenge to the inventiveness of the human spirit.”

That was Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s President buttering up to the United States during a speech to Congress on Wednesday.

Sarkozy, who incidentally comes from a country with a rich tradition in art, literature, and music, says the imaginations of his generation “were fueled by the winning of the West and Hollywood. By Elvis Presley, Duke Ellington, Hemingway. By John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth. And by Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, fulfilling mankind's oldest dream”.

Goodbye Jean Paul Satre, Albert Camus, Claude Levi-Strauss, Georges Bizet, Emile Zola and others that have long made France a center, nay a beacon of culture, politics, and ideology. Farewell to France’s own perception of how politics and the economy should be run.

Enter the new France, a pastiche of all things American, of George Bush and Donald Duck, of Britney Spears and Madonna.

To this sad pass has come such a proud nation that once tenaciously clung to its culture, language, and heritage.

Sarkozy seems to have done a perfect job wheedling his way into replacing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as America’s poodle.

In his speech, he agreed with the US that Iran with nuclear weapons was unacceptable, he reiterated his commitment to French continued engagement in Afghanistan. He gave the US a bonus: he did not refer to the country’s embarrassing debacle in Iraq. That was one issue at least on which Sarkozy could have held his pride, and told America, “we told you so, but you didn’t listen”. He could have used that opportunity to outline a broader view of how the world should move, rather than toeing George Bush’s now jaded and US-centric perception of the world

The members of the US Congress gave him a standing ovation, not once but many times. At a media briefing US President George Bush was seen escorting Sarkozy away with his arm patronizingly around his shoulders.

But Sarkozy carried nothing substantive home, except memories of a transcontinental love affair.

French reaction was fast and bitter. "You cannot be content with looking into each other's eyes and declaring you love one another. You must transform that into a vision and action for the world," former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, a Sarkozy rival, told RTL radio, according to this report by Reuters.

The smitten President also returns home to meet continuing opposition to his bid to Americanize the French economy. Two powerful Paris public transport unions said on Thursday they would join a wider rail strike from the evening of November 13, after rejecting a government offer on reforming their pensions, according to Reuters.

Whoever said the world loves a lover was evidently not French.

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