mardi 8 mai 2012

France / USA: Sarkozy, we will miss you! *

France is delighted to be rid of Nicolas Sarkozy. Ineffective in command, he was quick to commit public gaffes. Yet he will miss the French, more than they think. Beyond his boorishness and his comments to cringe, it has transformed the way which France had to design the presidency, just as he changed the vision that the U.S. had the French.
In France, the heads of state and govern from a palace, traditionally, they retire on a cloud. Nicolas Sarkozy's predecessors, François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, the "two fathers enemies" of the Fifth Republic, still float over the country, disembodied, untouchable. Their reputation is forever etched in stone: Chirac remains popular as he was recently charged with misappropriation of public property, and we keep Mitterrand's image of a man of dignity, in spite of his mistress and her daughter he has long kept hidden.

He too exhibited next to her doll in Bikini.

Sarkozy could not have been more different. He held the throne as a mortal, rather than a heavenly creature or a sovereign. He had appetites and prejudices mundane and often seemed unaware of the impact it could have. The night of his election (May 6, 2007), he held a lavish dinner (at Fouquet's on the Champs-Elysees). He took a holiday on the yacht of a wealthy supporter. Shortly after his divorce, he married a supermodel brought in after tryst at Disneyland.
You have a hard time visualizing a French president decked out in Mickey Mouse ears? Imagine the reaction of France. The French like their president has a paternal, if not grand father. Sarkozy, himself, exposing himself too literally. That showed pictures of the president taking a sunbath next to her doll in bikini, or shorts on the steps of the Elysee Palace after his morning jog!
But these defects made him so accessible. He was impetuous, young, emotional and direct, as prickly as he loved to smoke cigars. Attracted to the limelight, he was said privately whimsical. And superficial, so superficial.
French politicians are from a homogenous elite. Again, Sarkozy was an exception. Holland, "Mr Normal", is therefore a reversion to the mean. Calm, placid, he hates conflict. He will play France as nobody outside of his country, would wish to see: dull, elitist, haughty.

France and the United States are both desired and hated.

In fact, Sarkozy has never been particularly "French" in the sense that we Americans understand it. He was neither a gourmet nor a scholar nor a philosopher. He loved the United States headlong, and Elvis, and he was not ashamed to say. And we, to the extent that we never have loved a French president, we're infatuated with him. The fact that millionaires were in charge did not bother Americans. Sarkozy, president of the rich, has always been our man more than their own. For five years, we had someone in Europe that we could elect ourselves.
He's over, he left. The voters did not vote for Holland, but against his opponent - rejected Sarkozy's policies, but also what distinguished him from his vanity and his bad manners. Throughout history, France and the United States are both desired and hated. Americans continue to dream of Paris, Parisians still dream of America that they see in movies of David Lynch. It will take time for both countries to get used to a new leader, a new image. As for us, we'll maybe even learn what a true socialist.
For the French, it will be worse. Maybe they do not regret Nicolas Sarkozy today, maybe not will hope they never return. But his absence will still be felt. The temperature will drop. When what we love to hate disappears, it is love that goes also.
* Article by Rosecrans Baldwin, in The New York Times May 7, 2012.
Rosecrans Baldwin is an essayist, novelist and cofounder of the website He moved to Paris.
His bibliography includes:
-You Lost Me There, Riverhead Hardcover, New York, 2010.
Paris, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 2012.

1 commentaire:

  1. You bet we will miss Sarkozy, now that ''the French monies'' start flying away, in order to promote economy recovery (for the other's) DOMMAGE