France and America share a storied past. Granted we saved their butts in WWII and we remain a bit miffed we never received a proper thank you. We don’t care for their haughty style or their refusal to speak English to us. However, they remain one of our closest allies. It began in 1778 when we signed the Treaty of Alliance during the Revolutionary War—remember our little freedom thing? At that time, France was our first, and for a time, our only, ally.
We even have a coat of arms representing the spirit of the Franco American Alliance to prove it. Half the shield is painted with the pattern of the American flag, while the fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the French king, graces the other side.
Just months ago, France pledged support for US military action against Syria. At that time, John Kerry referred to France as, “Our oldest ally.” In February, President Obama and French President Hollande jointly issued this:
“We have been able to take our alliance to a new level because our interests and values are so closely aligned.” And, “Rooted in a friendship stretching back more than two centuries, our deepening partnership offers a model for international cooperation.”
This afternoon, our words must ring hollow. We watch the Unity March, minus our president, who so values France’s friendship he is not there. Our vice president is where? Our secretary of State Kerry is in India attending an entrepreneurship seminar. Not to worry. We sent Ambassador Jane Hartley, whom everyone will recognize and the French will know on sight. After all, she took office two and a half months ago.
We also get to hear from Eric Holder, in prerecorded comments. Because part of the job of domestic Attorney General, a cabinet position, is to stand in for the president when there are terrorist attacks on our oldest and dearest ally. He, however, did not march. It did look a bit chilly.
As CNN reports, an administration official explained, “As far as public signs of French solidarity from the U.S.–don’t forget several public statements from the president, his call to (French President François) Hollande and a condolence stop to the French embassy.” Well, thank God for that, non? By the way, that’s the French embassy down the street from the White House. To sign a book.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli OM Netanyahu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Palestinian (yep, Palestinian) Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and 34 other leaders linked arms to march with the diversity of French people through the streets. Je Suis Charlie. Je Suis Juit.
I may not be the best friend in the world, but I know you show up when a friend is in need. Especially your oldest friend. You forget words spoken in haste and embrace their sorrow, wrap them in your warmth and help them stand again. As a friend, we have failed and I am ashamed.
Is there no need to stand with such a friend? Do we not stand united for freedom of speech, against terrorism wherever it shows its vile head, with our allies at their darkest hour and show the world who we are at our core? Do we not show the world that we are, indeed, the mightiest, the strongest and also the kindest nation on earth?
I have no words. My heart breaks that there was a not a proud American leader marching though the streets of Paris. I can only hope that, by some chance, we are up to something. There is some sound reason we are not there; that we will emerge the victor and the hero we always have been. If not, we have left a sad message. And the photos will live on to demonstrate the depth of our friendship.
A comment comes across my feed. “He simply doesn’t need to be there.” My dear, in times of need and sorrow and death, we all need our friends.
To Paris: Mes Amis—Nous Sommes Charlie…