Bush: 'Not all French presidents are wimps' ....
Not surprising. Mrs Bush was 'interviewed' on France-2 TV news tonight by David P, who was doing the news here, and suddenly he was there - in DC - but 24 hours ago. Mrs B is looking forward to the state din-din at the Elysee Palace tomorrow or whenever it is.
Mrs B confirmed that Jacques is George's favorite Frenchperson. She said she couldn't say so in French, and did not say that she hoped that Madame Jacques can speak English - because they will be spending some time together in the next few days, traipsing off to Normandy, to see some beaches, graves and cows.
As it is, French TV news announced but did not follow up with story about how many D-Day visitors to Normandy are already in Normandy, trying to beat the rush and the visits by heads of state this coming weekend. Apparently cows get nervous when there are too many big heads around.
For any Listers who may be intending the relive the events of Tuesday, 6. June 1944, please do not forget that the event is on a Sunday this year. Long-range weather forecasts are shaping up nicely and there may actually be real sunshine this coming Sunday, unlike for the original event.
D-Day, already in prime time on TV, goes into heavy rotation tomorrow night with the beginning of the full-length movie of the 'Longest Day.' This is not the movie version by the same name, but a film of the actual event - in color! - that will last from 6 June until the Liberation of Paris on 19 August, when the film of this other historic event will take its place. (Also in color, see it on France-2, France-3, TV5 and Arte. 'Reality' TV shows will continue to be aired as usual on TF1 and M-6.)
Monday night's preview of the 'Longest Day,' called '?t? '44,' contained the startling news that only 0.5 percent of the French were in the Resistance before D-Day. There were also many residents who were annoyed with D-Day on account of being bombed and killed. After D-Day, membership in the Resistance swelled suddenly, to one percent.
It stayed at this level until enough chewing gum, cigarettes and Coca Cola became available and the French became aware of the advantages of abandoning the Vichy regime in favor of the new invaders, who were mainly Americans (the ones who had gum and money), supported by General Monty with the British (the ones without gum or money.)
Somehow, between 6 June and 19 August, everybody in France joined the Resistance, including many former members of the Milice, past-time Gestapo informers, and some Vichy government officials, like Maurice Papon. The hapless ones were stuck in the Vel d'Hiver and left to rot.
Parisians, cranky and unpredictable as always, would not listen to reason and went ahead and liberated themselves, using any old material that was lying around. This was started by the police (who had been arresting Resistance members 24 hours before) when they decided to have a strike. They took over the Prefecture on the Ile de la Cite and began shooting at the occupiers, who shot back. Some Parisians were killed, and about 1000 memorial plaques
were later pasted up all over the city.
When General De Gaulle arrived four days later, the city was pretty much liberated, except for some random shooters at the Place de la Concorde and at the Hotel de Ville. De Gaulle did not once drop his cigarette, but had a duck a couple of times, along with 500,000 other people.
About a week later he ordered the Resistance and the FFI disbanded. If they wanted to keep shooting, he said, they had to join the army. Some did and got killed on an excursion to Berlin.
Meanwhile, all sorts of camp-followers like Ernest Hemingway arrived. Old Ernie liberated the Ritz Bar, visited Sylvia Beach, and moved into the Hotel Maurice that had so recently been vacated by the other occupying forces. The sound of big band jazz was heard for the first time and bottles with drippy candles were set out in basements in the Quartier Latin, to be ready for the existentialists.
So far, it's been surprising how many French actually do remember all of this. As far as I know, nobody has said a word about it in the last 27 years. It turns out that it wasn't forgotten at all. Some people in Normandy are still complaining about getting bombed. Everybody accepts Coca Cola and chewing gum now. The most popular brand is 'Hollywood.' If that isn't a 'thanks,' I don't know what is.
To further international understanding between France and the United States, I think Mr. Bush should hang around for a week, to witness the European Elections when the French and the Germans, and everybody else except the sodden Swiss, will vote for new representatives to the European parliament. This is another way of saying 'thank you' for getting liberated, even if many of the Bush crew think that Europe may be getting a bit too big and shows it off by having continental elections.
To show that Europe isn't all that big, in France alone there are about 25 parties competing on 13 June. Some of these are anti-European parties. But May '68 hero 'Dany the Red' is the Euro manager for the Euro-Greens, and is running a trilingual campaign on behalf of candidates from the Atlantic to Russia, from the Mediterranean to the North Cape.
In France, at least, the big question is whether the Trotskyites will out-score the Communists. Jacques' conservative UMP party is trying to avoid another severe slap in the face, but really wishes the Euro-elections were happening in Australia, maybe last year. Jacques' Prime Minister has said that he will ignore any new 'slaps in the face.' It just goes to show that conservatives anywhere have a lot in common.