By Jim Brown
My family and I are currently on an extended vacation to Paris and Provence in central France. Relations with our country never have seemed better. Our welcome was quite warm everywhere we traveled. President Biden has developed a close and warm relationship with current French President Emmanuel Macron. And that’s good news for Louisiana.
It wasn’t too long ago when relations between the two countries were a bit frosty. I recollect back at the congressional cafeteria in the nation’s capitol when they changed the menu from French fries to freedom fries. That really showed them! And for the record, I don’t remember reading of any politician advocating the abolishment of French kissing!
But that was then. Although we’ve had conflicts and disagreements with the French, if you take a history lesson in Franco-American relations, you will see that when it’s crunch time, we can generally count on them. France has come out strongly in support of America’s tenuous situation in the Middle East, and the U.S. seems eager to let bygones be bygones.
Without the support of the French, America could well have lost the Revolutionary War. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson contemplated joint democratic values while serving as US Ambassador to France living in Paris. Many regardAlexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” as the best book written on the unique and exceptional American new form of government, that was later adopted by the French.
Many of us were close to speaking French as our native language. Napoleon’s agreement with Thomas Jefferson and Robert Livingston allowed for the creation of 15 new states, doubling the size of the United States. To give thanks to the French dictator, my home state of Louisiana agreed to hide him at what is now called The Napoleon House in the center of the New Orleans French Quarter. Unfortunately, before he could get to the Crescent City, he was captured, sentenced to exile, and ultimately died on the Isle of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean.
There is a little Yankee bad taste from Napoleon’s involvement in the Civil War. France was avowed to be neutral, but it was common knowledge that Napoleon III was pulling for the South.
And don’t come down here in South Louisiana and make any derogatory comments about France. Thanks to die hard Frenchmen, who immigrated first to Canada, and then migrated down the Mississippi as Acadians, the French tradition, language, culture and joie de vie is alive and well, and growing throughout Cajun country. In Abbeville, a small community just south of Lafayette, many of the signs outside retail stores are written in French. Several radio stations play only Cajun music with a daily rendition of the Cajun national anthem Jolie Blond, often played by my old friend, fiddler Doug Kershaw.
In choosing a destination for this summer, we picked Paris along with Provence and a ramble through southern France for the food, the ambience, the architecture, the Shakespeare Bookstore, a walk along the Seine. And the pretty girls!! Ah, to be 22 again back in 1963, when I spent months in Paris experiencing the special ambiance that is rarely found elsewhere. If you want to relive that Franco jolie vie, take a friend or loved one to see Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”
Certainly the French have their own national interests at heart. But they have also made it clear that what America says matters. Over time, there are historical allies and there are strong allies. Right now, France and the U.S. can claim to have both in one another — a solid past, and a present relationship that would seem to be in the best interest of both countries.
We in Louisiana are certainly glad of it. So pass the French bread. And for breakfast tomorrow, let’s have French toast and French roast coffee with French chicory, Louisiana style. And please, don’t shy away from an occasional French kiss.