Got History?

10 years and 11 months ago

Got History?

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I have been a buff of all things America ever since I can remember.

The "root causes", to use a fancy terminology, are multiple. There is, in part, a very deep sentiment of gratitude, through what I felt was a personal connection, by way of my grand-parents' experience during World War II. A sentiment that never left me, up to this day.

There is also a fascination for the visceral, and nearly palpable attachment to individual liberties, personal initiative and self-reliance, one can feel by listening to or reading from so many Americans, from a wide range of social classes, wealth levels and cultural backgrounds.

As if the Frontier Spirit was part of their DNA, no matter their occupation, their school education and the size of their homes and bank accounts.

And then there are more trivial factors, like westerns (see the glint in my eye when you mention anything with the Duke in it) and WWII movies, rock music, comic books, muscle cars (Say Firebird, Camaro and Charger or tell me about "The Judge" and see me drool), and American pop culture at large.

That, my friend, is a non-exhaustive list(1) of course, but if I was to detail all the reasons why I love America, you'd definitely be late for the 4th of July barbecue and fireworks(2).

Being French and unabashedly pro-American in France exacts a toll on one's social interactions – though I'm glad to report that this is a price I'm willing to pay anyway. For one thing, you can predict 9 times out 10 that you will get into a heated and potentially violent argument every time your favorite subject is raised. The said subject being the U.S.A, you can also predict very accurately that it will be raised, even in the most unexpected ways.

Most French just love to hate America.

This, however, has a positive twist in the sense that I frequently end up measuring the worthiness of both new and existing relationships (those I deem important enough that is) on the scale of the other party's positions on common issues involving the USA as a reference point, or simply as part of the equation, and their reactions to my counterarguments.

One of the statements I've heard the most, from the ignoramus and the educated alike, is that "them Americans (as a people) they don't have no History", as if, incidentally, leaving a centuries long blood trail of tribal chieftains and barbarian invasions, Lords and feuds, absolute monarchs and military despots was somehow the sign of some broadly undefined cultural superiority — but I digress.

I used to ridicule the tenants of such "definitive" argument by slapping them with the evidences of their own stupidity: pointing briefly at the fact that they assumed:

But I don't do that anymore, as I find it vastly more entertaining to begin with a faked agreement on those premises, in order to maximize the returns on my schadenfreude investments. It goes more or less like this:

"Okay, you know what? You're absolutely right. Them Americans (as a people)? Bah, newbies in the great Civilization game! They've been around like, what? Hardly more than 200 years(5)? Peanuts indeed. In fact, they're so green that if you take any American at random, you'll be sure to find he's still wet behind the ears with Boston tea."

"And yet…"

"Starting from scratch, on a vast continent still stuck in the stone age, and in hardly more than 200 years(5), them ahistorical Americans managed not only to catch up with us but to surpass us in nearly every ways, and reach the top of the Civilization shelf out of their own merit. They built tremendous cities and buildings the likes of which had never been seen on the face of the Earth. They've created, invented, improved so much, from the light bulb to the artificial heart, and they've broke so many barriers in so many disciplines, from fashion to transportation(6) that if you take any field in any Human activity, you will find "them Americans" in the pole position — and if not, at least in the tight, short top list.
To top it all, they've managed to do it without stumbling from Tribalism to Feudalism, Monarchism to Imperialism, and to Fascism or Communism like we did — demonstrating that even in Political Science, the rootless cowboy is way smarter than his Historically Aware European counterpart."

"And I'm just scratching the surface here."

"What's more, they're not done yet. In fact, my intimate conviction is that they're only warming up. No matter how long a past you're convinced you have my friend, when I look at America, I see a nation with a future — which is much more than I can say of mine."

"However, when all is said and done, and when one looks beyond the Bill of Rights, eye surgery or the Pontiac Firebird, do you want to know what really fascinates me about "them Americans"? Do you want to know what makes me admire them with so little restrain and yearn to become one of them one day?"

"It is that thing which I have not seen in any other nation, it is the defining edge they have over the rest of us. It is that painful understanding for every anti-American the world over, although they will never admit it: in short, it is that feeling I have that Americans are not so much interested in having a 'History' than they are in actually making it."

And over these mere 200 years(5), they made and shaped History probably more than the rest of us put together.

It is the Fourth of July, happy birthday Americans.

(As America celebrates her birthday, we are given the opportunity to witness the timeless relevance of Thomas Jefferson: from Afghanistan to Iraq, the tree of liberty is refreshed, yet again, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. I wish that in this day of celebration we remember and honor the former, and hail the fall of the latter.)
  1. Yes, yes, I know the American society is not perfect. For one thing there are lots of Cindy Sheenan, Noam Chomsky and Teddy Kennedy in it, but just keep your eyes on the big picture, because that's what it is about here.
  2. Next year's ones that is.
  3. As well as other fascinating stuff along the way. Like, for instance, picking one's nose, cruising aboard a Corvette, having impetuous sexual activity just for the sake of it or even performing brain surgery on other smart monkeys.
  4. Although admittedly, it was probably not as clearly defined in his mind at the time.
  5. 231 today.
  6. They developed the airplane in unprecedented proportions, and they-walked-the-Moon for crying out loud!

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Comments thread (9)

  • Comment author avatar
  • floridasuzieFlorida

Thanks DF. You might also want to tell the anti-American French that some of "them Americans" have French ancestry, so in our case we share their history as well as those 2 young centuries of America’s  :)

SuzieC

  • Comment author avatar
  • FollyUSA

Thank you very much. We Americans came from Europe and elsewhere because we didn’t fit in.  We weren’t the right religion or the right social class.  Europe didn’t want us.  We were outcasts looking for a place where your pedigree didn’t matter and where people could worship without being arrested. We created that place on a continent thousands of miles from our ancestral homeland.  Because we know what it’s like to be outcasts, we tend to be far more tolerant of people than any other country.

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  • 2hotel9Western Pennsylvania

Merci beaucoup! I have a substantial amount  of Francias blood in me. Along with Spanish, Irish, Scots, and Choctaw. Many of my ancestors came from the southwest of France/Northwest of Spain in the mid to late 1600s and settled in what was called West Floridia. My grandmother was big into geneology in the ‘70s, and she made sure we had a grasp of history.

Una Salus Victus Nullam Sperare Salutem

  • Comment author avatar
  • Sparkie ArbucklePhiladelphia, PA, USA

Thanks Frenchy. I, luckily (no offence), have nilhilo Frency in me. I grew up in Vermont, where the northern half of the state is named Paquette (of Quebequois origins), and slightly too close related by all apearances. I am a true American mutt: a lot of Polish Slav; a touch of Brit, Belgian, and Native American.

In Miami, down in the ‘garment district’, I had the chance to get into it with some French USA-haters. Common themes of their argument included; "But in Paris…", as if Paris is some end-all-be-all of civilization; and "The Americans are so stupid, out of touch with fashion, art, and high society". These Frenchies were shoved so far up their own ass, with no apparent reasons, it was almost surreal. On top of it all, they were standing on American soil, in one of our biggest southern ports and doorway to south and central america, bitching about their beautiful surroundings and lamenting their divorce from the French homeland, replete with $16USD half portion salads, hideous self absorbed coutrymen ‘of history’, riots, and burning vehicles.

At any rate, thank you for the impassioned piece. I am getting ready to walk down to the Ben Franklin parkway; in Philadelphia, the original capital; for rock and roll, Patty Labelle, and a ton of kick ass fireworks.

  • Comment author avatar
  • donStranger from out there

  Thank you, for your kind words. I know we haven’t much history, but you may remind people that the U.S.A. is ( I believe ) the oldest true democratic republic in the world. Or at least close to the oldest. I have thought alot about why we have what we have, after traveling a good portion of the world. I believe that it is from our attitude and number one, the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

  • Comment author avatar
  • Iwo GinaMaryland

Thanks, DF - That was very touching. You’re a real gentleman.

Iwo Gina :coolsmile:

  • Comment author avatar
  • Valerie, Texas

Just returned from viewing fireworks to find a dazzling display going on here.
Thank you DF, thank you so much.

 

  You are not a firend to America, but a son she waits patiently to welcome home.

 

 

  • Comment author avatar
  • N.Stranger from out there

Thanks, Froggie. You’re the best. Come home already!

  • Comment author avatar
  • CarlStranger from out there

Wow! Thanks.