There is this piece by Nicolas D Kristof in today's edition of the NYT and the ensuing comments by both American and European readers. Of course, the theme isn't exactly new and is a sure bet for exchanges between pros and cons. Yet, it's still interesting to read about the other half's point of view.
Those familiar with the Franco-American relations or, on a broader scale, the Euro-American relations, know that the key word in understanding these relations is ambivalence, like in love and hate.
Unless I'm mistaken (stuff happens...) this mindset seems to be more prevalent on the American side than on the other side of the Atlantic. Not that Europeans can be less passionate on this issue when the topic arises but I'm at a loss to figure out in which European country any politician could be attacked by h/h rivals for being able to speak English, German or French ?
By the way, Angela Merkel speaks Russian and Vladimir Putin speaks German. Blair speak French as well as does Cameron (not sure about him yet), Berlusconi was fluent in French, English and possibly Spanish (?), Chirac spoke fairly good English and translated Russian poetry into French when he was in his 20'. And Sarkozy... err... bad example, forget about Sarko.
Now, if Newt Gingrich makes fun of Mitt Romney because, like J. Kerry, he speaks French, isn't it an indication that "it works" with a certain portion of his audience?
On the one hand, for Americans who can trace their ancestry back from Europe as long ago as can be in history (say the XVIII th century or even sooner) their pride knows no limit.
On the other hand, so many of them have such disdain for Europe and Europeans, and certainly mainly among white Americans, preferably Republicans, but I guess Democrats aren’t immune from this prejudice. Remember Donald Rumsfeld’s new Europe as opposed to old Europe?
Yet they’re talking about the land of their ancestors, and you wonder how much they want not to be associated in any way with the backwarded people who live in Europe. The farther away they feel they are from Europeans (read commies), the better they’d be it seems. As if they needed to believe in some sort of out of nowhere self creation of their nation, in order to assert its legitimacy.
Now, I was listening to a radio program the other day when someone said that by the year 2.050 white Americans from European descent will be a minority among Latinos, Coloured and Asian Americans (in whichever order I can’t remember).
I thought that Black Americans couldn’t care less about dissociation from Europe since all their misfortunes came from Europe.
Asians wouldn’t care a fig all the same since they have no historical links with Europeans.
And the same goes with Latinos, themselves being from European (mainly Spanish and Portugese) descent but that was so long ago, they now come from Mexico and other Caribbean islands.
I don’t know about 2.050 but the trend seems unstoppable yet.
Maybe then, many white Americans will feel they’re surrounded with not real Americans of yesteryear… and they, well, their children and great-children, will remember things they said today.
(A funny detail in Kristof's article : It's stuffed with French words and expressions but not a single German, Italian or Spanish one...)