My love hate affair with you began around the time when all those screen pixels metamorphosed into the image of Francois Mitterrand as president. The world around me leapt up and went dancing in the street. I was newly married, struggling with the language and lost in an ocean of strangeness. The Eiffel Tower had lost its magic by then. The doctor with the power to award me a medical certificate, a legal requirement to start proceedings for acquiring French citizenship, requested that I remove all my clothes so he could take my blood pressure and then asked for a cash payment that was beyond my means at the time. I went home to get the money and came back with my “French pedigree” husband who, with the aplomb of a medieval knight, took the prize and tossed a coin at the cad’s feet. I left the surgery jubilant, fascinated and flummoxed by what was obviously a French flair for histrionics albeit chivalrous outrage at swinish behavior.
France, you taught me what it is like to feel inadequate, powerless and angry. I knew that before meeting you but learning your language gave me words to understand the experience of a stranger in a strange land. You looked down your long Gallic nose at me and sniffed, “your choice my dear”.
France, you can be so damned smug at times; so certain of your fatal attraction; so stuck in your fabulous ways that, even after 30 years within your boundaries, I am still hopelessly seduced by your beauty, your irascibility, your irrationality, your philosophers, your history, your towns and villages and, believe it or not, your sense of humor.
Tomorrow I am going to vote in the final round of your presidential election. I voted for the first time two weeks ago. I was amongst the 2.3% of the 80% who went to the polls on April 22nd to screen tap a green vote. I understood that you wanted me to vote with my heart the first time round so I thought it worthwhile to vote for your well being. I have walked your spectacular landscapes, eaten your magnificent cuisine, made friends with your people and admired the love and care your citizens lavish upon you so I wanted to imagine that someone in power could defend your interests. I am also predisposed to listen to a politician who appears to speak from a moral stand point and is willing to antagonize her team members and risk ridicule to be your voice in the wilderness.
I know you are in debt but I don’t know if it is because you’ve been on a wild shopping spree for years or because you have sold off a lot of your assets and expertise to pay for a quality of life that is the envy of others. Maybe it is just because you want all your citizens to be happy and to keep everything they spent years ungallantly fighting for: comfort, security, a well paid job for a 35 hour week, a long annual holiday in the sun, a nice place to live, a bank loan with a low interest rate, free healthcare, a good education, cheap electricity and not too many uninvited neighbors.
Now that I have “wasted” my first vote I am worried about my “real” vote tomorrow. I know who won the debate last Wednesday night but I can’t make up my mind about who has the longest magic wand. You have given me so much, France, over the last 30 years that I would like to be able to vote in favor of your kindness; to say thank you for all that you have given me; all the opportunities that the generosity of your system has enabled me to benefit from. I am not keen on your swallowing that “austerity pill” that Britain and Germany feel would do you the world of good and no doubt bring you down a peg or two.
Both contenders in tomorrow’s joust are carrying your colors and promising to defend your honor. I am going to join the queues and declare my support for one of your knights despite their poor display of chivalry in the debate. I shall be watching as those screen pixels metamorphose again as they did in 1981 but this time I shall be a part of it declaring victory or strike action along with the rest of your citizens.
France, be assured of my continuing ambiguity in your regard,
A privileged citizen in your care.