Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrive!
After three years of high school French you would think that I could do more than sing the Le Marseillaise
(French national anthem) and count to ten. But alas, this is all I can muster. Well, I could go to Paris and order some fromage to go with my brioche.
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'etendard sanglant est leve !
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces feroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes !
I have shown off and sung this at parties for over forty years. It got me one date, that I can remember. Made me a friend of a charming older French lady and stuck me with an obnoxiously drunk Canadian overnight in my apartment. Until this week I never realized that I didn't really know what the lyrics meant.
Arise, children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny
Raises its bloody banner
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They're coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons and women
Whoa, that's some pretty heavy stuff! And, two days ago forty world leaders marched arm and arm through the streets of Paris
in solidarity with France and the spirit of Charlie Hebdo while groups of Parisians were singing Le Marseillaise all around them.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu flanked one side with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas flanking the other. Germany's Angela Merkel and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were there along with leaders from Spain, England, Italy, Ukraine, Turkey and others. Astonishingly, the beacon of liberty, the City on the Hill, the exceptional one -- sent an ambassador
This is shocking to me on many levels -- we can dispatch drones around the world to kill but we can't send a meaningful representative to symbolically represent why we send drones around the world to kill. I think this exposes the crassness and horrible banality of what we do in the name of Liberte, Égalite, Fraternite.
I think this situation should have all Americans asking themselves -- what are we? The scale of this symbolic blunder is huge and we should be asking what the folks that run this place are truly made of? We can make big movies about snipers but we can't send a meaningful symbol to represent what we claim that sniper was killing for? This is disturbing and shameful.
I will never sing Le Marsellaise at a party again now that I know what I was singing -- words and symbols have power and one must be careful how they are used, or not.
(Article changed on January 13, 2015 at 10:28)
(Article changed on January 13, 2015 at 11:30)
Kevin is an Artist, Writer, Carpenter and Gallerist in Texas.