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Nous sommes tous des américains
While I have been writing heretofore as an Episcopal bishop and American citizen, I also have something to say now as a French citizen who is bishop to many French Episcopalians, including three unorganized missions composed purely of French people.
I have been appalled by the savage attacks on France in the American media of late. I read that we French are anti-Semitic, cowardly and anti-American. The phenomenon of Jean-Marie LePen has been a propaganda delight for the Sharon government, which actually offered financial aid to French Jews to leave France!
It is of course true that hatred of Jews has been for a long time a part of the French extreme right. One recalls with disgust the collaboration of some of our countrymen—LePen's spiritual ancestors—in the Nazi holocaust. In all, 25% of France's Jews were deported during the Occupation. This is a shameful fact of French history.
But that does not tell what happened to the other 75%. They survived because the rest of us hid them, enabled them to survive. This is why France today has Europe's largest Jewish community. Other than a small extreme-right fringe, found equally in the United States as in Europe, the French are not anti-Semitic.
LePen's showing in the recent election had nothing to do with his anti-Semitic views. It had everything to do with the social problems engendered by the government's silent refusal to help Arab immigrants—about five million people—integrate into French society. The real answer of the French people to his extremism came in the crushing landslide victory enjoyed by Jacques Chirac.
The charge of anti-Americanism is even less credible. Americans in France will tell you of the extraordinary outpouring of love and support for the United States following September 11. France immediately declared its total support of the American people and their government. Chirac was the first foreign leader to visit Ground Zero, and he logged hundreds of hours' travel around the world afterwards helping George W. Bush build his coalition. 'Nous sommes tous des américains,' declared France's leading daily Le Monde. As I write, French Air Force and Navy fighter-bombers are flying combat missions supporting American troops in Afghanistan, the only nation that has given America combat aviation support. The White House recently revealed the critical role that French intelligence played in the war against the Taliban, as well as vital support in cutting off financial support of Al-Qaeda. This is cowardice?
It is a historical fact that every time the United States has been threatened in its existence, France, not Great Britain, has been its staunchest ally. Americans might say that of course, we helped France twice. (That was mentioned a lot in France after September 11.) But Americans rarely mention that the First World War started in 1914 for France, and 1917 for America; the Second World War started in 1939 for France, and 1941 for the USA. Today movies like “The Patriot” even denigrate the crucial French military support that enabled the American colonies of Great Britain to become the United States.
France has a lot of pressing problems, but anti-Semitism, cowardice, and anti-Americanism are not among them. On the other hand, the French have the American media to contend with.
Bishop Whalon welcomes comments or questions about this article. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.