Donald Trump rolled out the military hardware for his July 4 celebration. I hated it.
I’m in Paris now. It’s Bastille Day. I walked with Meg to the Pont des Arts to watch French fighter jets stream les tricolores over the Louvre as part of their military parade. I loved it.
Why is that?
Am I just so anti-Trump that anything he does, even in the name of celebrating our founding, rankles me? Probably. I wish he would test me by doing something good—you know, humane—but I’m not holding my breath.
Maybe it just that the French, unlike the U.S. under Trump, seem relatively harmless. Their parades are like the ones in small towns with fire engines and kids pulling red wagons with puppies (credit to one of my sons for that charming image).
The French have learned to live in peace as part of the world community. They are still in the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal. They are loyal to NATO and the European Union. They have their problems domestically, but no one feels threatened by the French.
Not so my own country under its current leadership. We have become international bullies. We’re bullies on matters of defense (pay your NATO dues or maybe you can’t count on our help when you get attacked), bullies on trade, bullies on climate, bullies on immigration. Bullies against women. Bullies against our own citizens who aren’t white. Even the white ones who, along with everyone else, want decent health care.
It’s discouraging, and embarrassing. When people here ask me where I’m from, I say California, not America. Like the charming woman Meg and I met at a tiny neighborhood wine tasting on Boulevard St. Germain who is British but has lived in Paris for twenty years and considers it home. She hopes Macron can succeed with his economic reforms—she had several amusing stories about frustratingly desultory navigations through French bureaucracy—but she loves France and is worried that after Brexit she might not be able to stay. She visibly relaxed we we mentioned were weren’t Trump fans.
There are many reasons to love Paris. The food, the wine, the Seine, the shopkeepers, the markets. America grew up on the road, so we have McDonalds. The French staked out their way of living hundreds of years ago. Localvore has always been in here. It’s just a different sensibility.
It’s not as dynamic as Silicon Valley, where we live. It isn’t cutting edge. America does that better than anyone. Still.
We are the best at so many things, we don’t need to keep reminding the world of that. We don’t need to threaten. We don’t need to bully. We don’t need to be the boor raised in privilege with no conception of the moral responsibilities that go with that birthright.
To anyone who might now be thinking of telling me “America, Love it or Leave it,” I say this: I don’t want to be an expatriate. I just want my country back.