The 99th Tour de France ended on the Champs-Elysées in Paris last Sunday, July 22nd, 2012. It is always exciting to watch the cyclists arriving near the Seine River and to get the first glimpse at the Eiffel Tower. Luckily it was a beautiful sunny day because when it is raining the cobblestones on the boulevard can be dangerous. I watched it all on my little TV in my kitchen and took some pictures (they are not very good though.)
As expected Bradley Wiggins (Wiggo) from London, England, was the winner of the Tour. There was not too much suspense because Wiggo has kept the yellow jersey for quite a while. The last day of the Tour was the 20th stage. It started that morning in Rambouillet and the only suspense was in finding out who would sprint on the Champs-Elysées and win the stage. Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man in England was the winner of the stage. So England did very well in the Tour this year – actually this was an historical win as it was the first time the Tour was won by a subject of her Gracious Majesty. There were British flags en force in Paris. (photo courtesy below NBC.) Click on collage to enlarge then on each photo to biggify.
We have already heard that next year, for the 100th Tour de France, it will start in the island of Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean Sea and will be there for three stages. The Tour has never been on Corsica Island yet. It will leave from the port of Porto-Vecchio on 29 June 2013 (on the bottom right hand corner of the island shown in the postcard below.) The next two stages will end in Bastia (upper right) and Ajaccio (on the left.) Then it will leave from Nice on the French Riviera. But we have to wait for over 11 months to watch it… sigh…
My last post published on July 13th had been pre-programmed because we had left earlier that week for Tennessee to visit our daughter and family. It was the birthday of our youngest grandson on July 13th. I made a cake – it was not very attractive and the birthday boy was not quite sure what he was supposed to do with it, nor the candle.
Once a piece of cake was given to him he did not wait for everyone to be served to eat his slice and finish it very quickly.
Here he is below the next day, on Saturday July 14th and also with his mommy, saying goodbye to us at the end of our stay.
Early on that Saturday of July 14th, I had watched the Tour de France live on TV. It was the 13th Stage which started in Saint Paul Trois-Châteaux, a small town in Provence. The French tourist site says that it is a very ancient fortified town. It has some Roman ruins and medieval remains of a 14th century ramparts and synagogue, a 12th century cathedral and church. Below are pictures of a street in the village, a lavender field nearby and the Tour de France leaving it.
Then about 3 hours later the Tour ended in Cap d’Agde which is one of the largest leisure ports on the French Mediterranean, near the town of Agde. Within the beach is a large family-style “naturist” resort with about 40,000 daily visitors during the high season. It is considered THE naturist destination. Nudity is mandatory on this beach but optional in the nudist area. The postcard on the top of my post is from the Cap d’Agde and below is the town and the cap (courtesy NBC Sport and newspaper La Dépêche.)
That Saturday, the 14th, my daughter was working, but my son-in-law, the grand children and my husband decided to go for a walk. The Tour for the 14th was ending, so I stopped watching TV.
Bike 163 (Courtesy Bicycle Clipart)Then I looked on the Web and found US articles on Bastille Day, too. One article was fine but there were some comments below it. I know I should not have looked at them. Usually most of the comments about France are very negative – on any subject. But I did read them. Well – as usual they were not very nice. I know I should not have continued reading, but in a way I was like hypnotized. I thought that since 2003 French bashing had become less popular, but I was wrong – it is as strong as ever. When my husband came back, I showed him the comments but most of the worst ones had been deleted by the administrator of the site. Here was one “Q: What's the motto of the French Army? A: Stop, drop, and run!.” Here is another one: “The French don’t bathe – French women do not shave their bodies and can make braids out of their under arm hair.” I told him that I had read many comments which were a lot more offensive. He asked me if I knew why this was still so prevalent. So I read up about it – all week. I found many articles, blogs, columns, and pictures on this francophobia (Wikipedia says that this a term that refers to a “dislike or hatred” toward France, the People and Government of France and Francophonie.)
I was not going to write about this on my blog as I had written part of a post on this before. It was toward the end of my post on St Pierre et Miquelon on September 4, 2009 – you can read it here. But then I remembered a post I read last June in a friend’s blog, Friko’s World, “Why Are So Many Of You So Much Better Off Than Me?” where she lamented, jokingly, the fact that most posts were positive, rosy, showing enchanting lives with no pessimism, sadness or angry feelings. So I thought I would write about this francophobia now. I am not looking for mean pictures to illustrate my post, so I’ll just show some paintings from Albert Marquet who was born in Bordeaux, France in 1875 and was a roommate of Matisse in art school in Paris.
Le Pont Neuf in Paris 1935 by Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947Some people will say that these comments come only from bigoted, ignorant people, or people with slow brains, but they come for everywhere. As I was watching the Jon Steward show, which is very liberal, Jon Stewart said in answer to his guest: “Nobody likes the French. I think it’s a given – even enemies can agree …nobody likes the French”(Jon Stewart March 8, 2012 Comedy Central Show.) I was so surprised that I copied his words. Just last week Jay Leno made a joke about the American athletes at the upcoming Olympic Games: “We have American athletes in uniforms made in China, wearing French berets. I don’t know if we’re supposed to compete, ask for a loan or surrender.” –Jay Leno, July 16, 2012. Everyone laughed – it has become part of the pop-culture. On another talk show I heard the host talking about parties in Washington, DC, where Republicans and Democrats sit apart until someone says “have you heard the last good one about the dirty French” and, he said, everyone stops, listens and laugh. Everyone “Hah! Hah!” Just think if he had inserted the word “Jew, black, Italian, German or …” he would have been reprimanded for sure, but saying “dirty French” is quite OK and nobody minds.
There have been anti-French feelings here for a long time. At my first job in the early 1960s the president’s secretary disliked me immensely just because I was French. I came home many days in tears. Later, in the 1980s in the corporation I worked for in Georgia another employee there disliked me because of my origins. He would call me Frog, Miss Piggy and many names behind my back that I can’t repeat here. When in the 90s he lost his position because of personnel reduction he felt that it was my fault. He started to call my answering machine at night and leave dirty messages, calling me mean and ugly names. After a year the messages turned quite threatening. My boss said not to worry. I had one of the supervisors listen to them. He said if his wife received such threatening phone messages he would send them to the police. So I did. The Police said it was a crime to threaten someone over the telephone lines and listened to the messages. They told me they were concerned. They took care of it.
Festivities in Les Sable d’Olonne in 1933, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947
During the Iraq War, I received nasty emails about France even though I am a citizen and live in the USA. Some papers were even stuck on walls close to my cubicle saying “First bomb Iraq, then France.” Once while driving my Pontiac which had a small French flag on the bumper, a guy in an elevated pick-up truck (the kind that sits high on huge tires) kept coming closer to my car into my lane until I was forced to drive into a ditch. Then he left giving me a dirty gesture while yelling to go back to my F*+%$ country. Luckily my car did not overturn and I was more mad than scared. I read then about a French woman in Houston who had lived there for decades whose house was vandalized with red paint saying “Go back to France” and another French man whose windshield was broken. I remember when Condoleezza Rice said “Punish France, ignore Germany, and pardon Russia.” Unfortunately these anti-French sentiments have survived and are still rampant. They have become mainstream.
Le Vieux Port de Marseille 1916-1918, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947
I did find an interesting research by the Brookings Institute. This is a highly regarded non-partisan public policy organization “think tank” made of more than 300 scholars specializing in various fields. Their research on French-bashing concluded that there had been a persistent campaign of disinformation about France and this had come from the Bush Administration. I’ll quote some of this research here but you can read it at the site here. “When it became clear that France was becoming a major hurdle in the run-up to the war, the parts of the Bush administration favorable to an early war and their allies increasingly used France both as a scapegoat….to discredit opposition to the war by branding it "French," hence unpatriotic. Bashing France, denouncing it as the active agent of anti-Americanism… was a way to incite patriotism and coerce the opposition, from the anti-war movement to Republican dissenters, into acquiescence.”
Le Louvre et Pont Neuf – 1906, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947
Well after all, it was the commissary in the Congress of the United States where Freedom Fries were born. To this day Fox News repeats many of the old untrue allegations that were “leaked” to them by “anonymous sources.” But people watching TV think they are true and so they are kept alive. There is no objectivity or fairness anymore when it involved France, at least by the majority here.
La Rochelle 1920, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947
I did find out too that the French minority in the US is one of the smallest. France has been one of the few major European countries to have not undergone widespread immigration to the USA resulting in no lobby to satisfy or minority to pander to and no American constituency overseeing their interests. So now French-bashing is considered fashionable – people don’t notice it and children are growing knowing that these feelings are commonplace.
Les Bateaux Bleus dans le Port de St Luz, Albert Marquet, French 1875-1947
My husband has accompanied me to France many times and we spoke only in English. We never encountered any unpleasantness or rudeness – but I did here. It really pains, hurts and saddens me because I love this country and wish the hostility against France would stop. But I don’t think it will, if ever. It was so easy to find material on this - I typed “French bashing” in Big search and immediately received 6,110,000 results! So it has been a depressing week – time to breathe some fresh sea air and needed oxygen.
Rocky-Point Sunset, Alexander Dzigurski II, American born 1968
I did hear French spoken though two weeks ago – it was the first time since May 2011. It was the French movie “The Intouchables.” It is written after a true story about a quadriplegic aristocrat who was injured in a paragliding accident and a young man from the projects. It has won several awards.