France Journal: June 8, 1996

Long day!  We woke up to a very good breakfast.  We traveled away from St. Malo and went to Normandy.  In one town we ate some lunch and had a very good time.  I could do this a lot.  However, some chose to go to a discoteque late the night before and Arnaud was very stressed.  I bought some cheese.  In Normandy, we went to the American cemetery and there was quite a downpour.  Everyone and everything was wet.  It was probably better because we got a better feeling of what it might have been like in that harbor at that time.  We saw the concrete structures in the sea that were brought to fortify the artificial harbor.  We also spent about 45 minutes at the place that was bombed and the Germans were called [Omaha] Beach.  Then after that we were off to Paris!  We were going and I woke up about one hour before we arrived in the city.  We went through many miles of trees and forest and the traffic started thickening.  The trees were very numerous.  We went through several tunnels and suddenly under one tunnel, we were there!  We ate at a very decent restaurant where the waiters were amusing when they tried to speak English.  After that we went for a lovely ride on a boat through the highlights of Paris from the Seine River.  We went around both islands and passed many gorgeous buildings and statues.  When we arrived at the hotel we were pleasantly surprised by the discovery of a shower curtain and refrigerator and microwave.  It was very nice.  Each room was 350 F for 1 night – 2 people.  Paris is a wonderful city.  We are not doing anything for the night but sleep!

» 26 May 2009

This day had a lot of important parts.  First, the visit to one of the D-Day beaches was really moving.  The heavy rain made it even more somber and I wished I could have just stood there all day.  While the history lessons on large boards were fascinating, they paled to have the impact of a field of white crosses.  It was beautiful and eerie.  The rain, the cold, and the sudden sense of sadness dealt a crucial blow to my impressions of Paris.  By the time we arrived, I wasn’t really feeling well and tried for a couple days to shake it.  Unfortunately, I only had those couple of days to enjoy Paris.  Under different circumstances, my feelings of that city might be better.

» 27 June 2016

The air is thick with an uneasiness.  Change seems inevitable, but whether that will prove positive or negative remains to be seen.  I have a lot of fears about the direction politics is headed in this country, in spite of the fact that I really do believe the US is not only the greatest country to be living in right now, but has been getting better and better.  Losing sight of our improvements as a nation is easy; the media finds very little interest in something as mundane as satisfaction or happiness.  The impression is left that there exists more unrest, more dissatisfaction, more strife than actually does exist, and that feeds into those problems.  I’m by no means saying that genuine issues do not exist, nor am I saying that the issues  people face are not important.  But what I am saying is that we are not worse off than we were before.  Part of the rhetoric of the current political discourse is that we have left behind an America whose ideals were so fantastic.  We have betrayed our country and need to work to get back to a former greatness.  That sounds good, and nostalgia certainly paints the past in pretty colors, but when viewed historically, no basis for such an idyllic time exists.  Sure, we’ve had moments of resolve, challenges we have overcome, periods of great prosperity and possibility, but often these moments are tainted with the uglier sides of our human nature: discrimination, greed, corruption.  In no point in American history have we seen as much equality for all citizens as we do now, even if there is still progress to be made.  And that is we have opportunities to shine.  Progress.  We won’t be the leaders of the free world anymore if we isolate ourselves and leave our allies to figure things out for themselves.

In 1776, France provided aid to the American colonies, likely allowing for the defeat of the British in the American Revolution.  On June 6, 1944 America was able to repay that debt and helped defeat the Germans who were occupying France at the time.  They were our first ally, and remain one to this day.  But that relationship was not formed and strengthened through isolationism.  How different would the world be now if the United States had decided that saving France was not its problem?  How different would the world be now if France had decided that saving the American Colonies was not its problem?  Foreign relations is not about maintaining friendships at arms length.  It never has been.  A large number of Americans have been steered into that way of thinking.  The media coverage and the conservative message have so blown up the problems that exist with “the other” that I think it is difficult to remember how connected we all are on this planet.

Visiting Omaha beach was moving, it still is twenty years later.  It is a reminder of our global responsibility.  Having a strong and proud national identity need not cost us our allies.