Wednesday, November 11
Actually, I’m writing this on Thursday morning here, as the sun is coming up. However, I want to write about the fact that November 11 marked the 102 anniversary of the end of WWI - the war to end all wars, one of the bloodiest in history, that solved absolutely nothing. It was such a tragedy, and it stands out even today as an obvious warning that baked into human nature is the fact that being agressive to the point of thinking up crueler and more horrific ways to kill other humans is somehow a good thing. Tribalism lives on today as a primal and defining factor that permeates our politics and society in general. Maybe we don’t shoot at each other as much, but loving kindness is not thriving in most of the world. Yet there are still many examples of people helping others without calculating which tribe they belong to. So that, too, is part of human nature. Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to prioritize this aspect of our being in a more general way. I don’t want to pontificate, BUT, here in France, right now as a result of the Pandemic, there is no debate about compensating workers and business owners who have lost their livelihood. Health care doesn’t do away when a person loses his or her job. Neither do family allocations that help low-income families send their kids to day care, subsidize part of the rent, and help put food on the table.
What stuck me so poignantly yesterday was the difference between the comportment of Trump and Macron at their respective ceremonies commemorating the end of WWI by laying a wreath on the grave of the unknown soldier. At Arlington Cemetery Trump, Pence and two other men I didn’t recognize showed up late, then stood in the rain while listening to a small chorus of men sing the national anthem. Then Trump, who was scowling the whole time, stepped up to a wreath displayed on a stand, stared at the wreath as if he were contemplating the enormity of this day, touched the wreath, then backed into the line of his small group, listened to Taps, and then left. Macron, who had given a speech earlier in the day at the Pantheon, conducted his ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe at the top end of the Champs Elysées, that would normally be lined with hundreds of people but was empty yesterday. He was alone with a couple of military escorts, as he listened to a small chorus sing La Marseillais, then lit a flame and placed a wreath on the ground of a symbolic grave of the unknown soldier. The actual ceremonies were both somber and short, but the demeanor of the two men was so different. I get that Trump is coming out for the first time after losing the election. We all know that he doesn’t like to stand out in the rain. His hair got wet. But he looked so defiant and so not wanting to be there. He was wooden in his movements and gestures. Macron - sincerely or not - showed humility and appeared to take his role seriously as the symbol of national grief for all soldiers who have died in so many conflicts.
I’m probably making too much of this, but when one blogs, one is allowed to write whatever is on one’s mind.
Thanks for slogging through today missive.