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Who Would Have Thought In France?

Well, Listen to La Marseillaise, Read a Little History and Get Back To Me

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 01, 2002.

It is annoying to hear the shocked media reactions to the unexpectedly strong showing of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the French elections last week. Le Pen outscored the establishment left, leaving him in the final round for the French Presidency against the Conservative incumbent Chirac. About a half million French staged a demonstration against Le Pen yesterday, even as that worthy placed flowers at a memorial to Joan of Arc.

The issue here is that Le Pen is a porcine bigot, a fascist wannabe fortunately blessed with tender intellectual ability and slender oratory gifts, although a dedicated politico and a hard worker for his repulsive views. He, like Chirac and most of the current French power brokers, first appeared on the national scene in the 1970's, so it is not as though his views against all foreigners and non-Catholic French citizens came as a surprise. He is the Pat Buchanan/David Duke of France, not given to hiding his light under a bushel. But because France is a Western nation, whose Philosophes fired our own Revolution as well as their own, many Americans are as shocked that France legally elevated such a figure as most Americans would be if Pat Robertson or Al Sharpton suddenly appeared as a Presidential finalist.

American ignorance of history, demonstrated by our own current President and current university graduates - even History majors - has never been a charming characteristic, and makes us utterly malleable to smooth talking loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh, who counts on his audience's ignorance and cannot get through an hour without at least one thumping untruth or outright fabrication. The interesting thing about Adolph Hitler, for example, is not that he was monster born of pure evil, but that he was a predictable offspring of centuries of European anti-Semitism nurtured by the Vatican. Most surprising about Hitler is that he wasn't French, for that nation harbored the worst, most unspeakably disturbed sado-sexual anti-Semitic elements for much of western history. The Dreyfuss case - in which a Jewish officer was singled out for treason with no evidence worthy of the name except his religion and for which handwritten evidence and eyewitnesses existed against the guilty parties was ignored - is only the tip of the iceberg. While England under the Plantagenets routinely killed members of its Jewish community when the crown's debt to them grew too large, and other nations sadistically slaughtered Jews, the French retained the most overt examples of disturbed anti-Semitism, of the sort harbored by Hitler.

That the Revolution in France is not entirely over is the problem. The established, very Catholic aristocracy has elements to this day that have never accepted history's verdict, never accepted the Rights of Man, never sing their national anthem. Face it, there are elements in America who have never accepted the verdict of the Civil War, but their ranks are thin and they have few intellectual underpinnings. Even Robert E. Lee wrote that God had clearly chosen the winners. But France's reactionary elements were never clobbered in a manner that would suggest utter defeat; there was always a politician who needed them in a nation divided into zillions of small political parties for their votes.

But it is not just the conservatives. The French Revolution, while it talked about universal justice, was xenophobic. France felt that its recent kings were foreign, for surely its army was composed of mercenaries. Here are two verses from the French national anthem. It is sung to that rousing, happy melody of the La Marseillaise.

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts


What! These foreign cohorts!
They would make laws in our courts!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would cut down our warrior sons
Good Lord! By chained hands
Our brow would yield under the yoke
The vile despots would have themselves be
The masters of destiny.

These are the words the French sing, both at Bastille Day celebrations and at The Olympics both. People complain about our national anthem as bloody and warlike, but it is a New Age Invocation of Peace in comparison, and really only is a metaphor for how, when hell surrounds it, the ideals of America, represented in our flag, are still there. There is nothing reflective about La Marseillaise. It is a war song against all foreigners. After all, even Joan of Arc, whatever the truth, is a symbol of unthinking dedication to a bad king and a corrupt, unjust government of incompetents.

But it isn't just a military assault, for they fear foreign assault in their own courts and legislatures. That is the fear Le Pen fans today, the influx of African Muslims who may soon have legislative power in the French government. It is not entirely bigoted to be concerned to what their essential allegiance would be. There is precedent for concern.

So I ask you, graduates of American high schools and partakers of American media, why are we surprised about Le Pen again?