L’investiture

I was able to watch the turning over of power from President Hollande to now President Macron on Sunday.  It was remarkable for it’s simplicity and elegance as opposed to the American Inauguration.

At the end, I felt privileged to have watched (albeit on television) and very hopeful for France.

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On route to Arc de Triomphe

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A bientôt,

Sara

 

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Jet lag, Macron and Technology

Ok, Macron first.  I’m not going to write about him and how he won the French presidential election.  Everyone else has written about it.  What I can say is that among my friends, mostly American, everyone was holding their collective breath.  The media was saying he would win by a landslide 60% to Le Pen’s 40%.  But we had all heard that before with Brexit and with Trump.  No one wanted to be the one to say it out loud and then be wrong.

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So it was with a huge sign of relief that the French went to bed last Sunday night knowing that their new President would be Emmanuel Macron or, as Le Match is calling him on their front cover, The Kid.  I went to sleep hearing horns honking and voices cheering.   I am in the 17th arrondissement and the victory party was in the 1st at the Louvre.  So there were many happy people that night.

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The hardest is yet to come

The majority of people were happy that Marine Le Pen lost.  No one really knows what a Macron presidency will look like.  Many in France didn’t vote or voted by leaving their ballot blank.  Banker and racist to these people are equal in their sinister meaning.  Macron’s party, Onward (On marche) is one year old.  He now must have members standing for election in the next months and they must win.  He needs the strength of his own party in order to achieve anything.  He is the elite and no one is sure what that means.  But I remind people that FDR and JFK were also the elite and we Americans look back on those two as two of the greatest Presidents in US modern history.  So Onward!

I have been back in Paris for 11 days.  I had probably the worst jet lag I’ve ever had.  Friends were saying I made no sense when I talked and for the first three or four days, I had the affect of being on drugs.  It occurred to me after five days that I was still less than three months from a serious hip operation.  I had been doing so well, walking a number of miles a week, throwing away my cane! and acting as if I was totally recovered.  But I’m not.  The doctor says there is 90-95% recovery in the first three months then it takes an entire year to have 100% recovery.

Standard jet lag lore is that it requires one day of recovery for every time zone one goes through.  I went forward nine time zones coming from Oakland, California to Paris.  I think my body may have gone into a bit of shock with the altitude, the jet lag and the recent surgery.  Sure enough, nine days after landing, I started feeling human again.  I wanted to explore this new neighborhood I’ve landed in while looking for a permanent place to live.  The weather has gotten a bit warmer and is much more inviting.

Something I keep getting reminded of and feel extremely grateful for is the importance of technology for someone like me.  I haven’t had a working french phone until today and the Wifi in my little studio was, at first, nonexistent and then very sketchy while I tried to figure out what was wrong.  On Thursday, I spent 1 hour at the SFR boutique with my not very good french (it’s amazing how much one can forget in four months) and my computer until the young man worked everything out.

I think it’s possible for someone like me to travel because WiFi, the internet, Skype keeps me connected to the world at large.  It’s very hard to feel lonely.  Cut all that off and it’s me in this small studio apartment unable to reach out to communicate.  It’s a blessing I love to read so much – because that is what I did – read 4 books in less than two weeks.

I don’t like reading about the kind of hacking the world experienced yesterday.  I feel grateful for my computer and WIFI every single day and want nothing to ever go wrong. Cyberspace is the Wild, Wild West.

A bientôt,

Sara

All my news apps

Sitting in my wonderful apartment in Paris, I felt very far away from the 2016 Presidential Election and the “peaceful exchange” of power during December and January.  I was sure that being back in the United States would make it more real, less dream-like.  Almost instinctively, I didn’t watch any news on TV except the PBS News Hour.  I had come to really appreciate the news stations in Europe that just report the news without opinions or jeering or humiliation – on either side.  It was refreshing, allowing me to make up my own mind.  The PBS News Hour is much like that.  Reporting the news and an expansion on the important stories during the hour.

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Still, I had news apps set to send me alerts of breaking news.  I had called myself a ‘news junkie’ before I left for Paris.  Now I just wanted to stay on top of the news, know what’s going on.  Last night’s news had me looking at Trump’s hair for more than 2 minutes—I think his wig, or whatever it is that he wears, had slipped and made a big ball on the left side of his head–while the announcers reported on his first full day in office.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

This morning, I woke up very depressed.  Of course, other physical health things that I’m feeling a bit powerless over are happening to me and certainly add to the blues.  But I haven’t felt this kind of depression in a very long time.  A lot of my good friends have been suffering since the Election.  I was far away and, even though I feared the worst, I just wanted to stick my head in the sand and “give the guy a chance”  As mostly billionaire white men were asked to be in his cabinet, I started fearing for the people who voted him in.  How are they going to feel when they start losing subsidies and whatever little health care the ACA had given to them?

Later this morning, I got an alert from the NYTimes about another executive order signed.  Suddenly I just couldn’t take it any more.  I have no control over what’s going on in Washington but I do have some control over how I’m going to feel each day.  I went to my iPhone settings and turned off all my alerts from my news sources.  I may stop the domestic digest of the NYTimes and only get the International digest.  I can handle that much better.

While I was writing, my friend Barbara sent me a YouTube clip “Make American first, the Nederlands second”  It made me smile, I need to smile.                                                                     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX_uFqc3WHI&feature=share

I also believe that the antidote to my depression is action.  I will have to do something.  Something that I’m able to do after a hip replacement surgery.  As a university student, I was very active protesting the Vietnam war.  I was a follower then.  I wouldn’t have admitted that at the time.  I couldn’t think very clearly for myself.  Plus, I was not alone.  Being a protester in the north against the War was almost a social event.  It’s important to me that I think clearly, that I do my protesting in a way that fits with my values and beliefs and my capabilities.

This is an on-going saga.  I’ve got four years to perfect my protesting.  One thing I will say about Trump.  He is definitely a unifier.  He has unified my friends and so many others, witness the Women’s Marches all over the world, in a way that hasn’t existed in a very long time.  More to be revealed…..

A bientôt,

Sara

 

And now we have elections in France

After Donald Trump’s surprise win on November 9th, Marine Le Pen, of the Nationalist Front party here in France, called him to congratulate him.  She is hoping that the wind that has blown so far right in the UK and the USA will blow her into the Presidency of France next Spring.

François Hollande of the Socialist party and the present President, is extremely unpopular. The right (which in America would actually be the left) and the Centrist parties had a primary this past Sunday.  The French; and exPats with French citizenship; stood in line for at least an hour, paid 2euros and made their choices.  Alain Juppé, the Mayor of Bordeaux and a past Prime Minister-with a checkered past,  was favored to win.  Nicolas Sarkozy was one of the seven in the Primary and people were as much voting against him as they were for someone else.  François Fillon, who surprisingly ‘won’ the Primary, got 44% of the vote.  Juppé got 28% of the vote and Sarkozy got 20% of the vote.  Juppé and Fillon will have a run-off this Sunday, Nov. 27.  Sarkozy is out and Juppé and Fillon will be battling for Sarkozy’s followers.  “They” are saying whoever wins the vote on Sunday will probably be the next President of France.  That person will be running against Marine Le Pen and she will give them a run for their money.

Alain Juppé (courtesy of Reuters)

OF the two, Fillon is the more conservative.  He was Sarkozy’s Prime Minister in 2007 and although the two didn’t get along very well, Sarkozy is throwing his support and his votes to Fillon. Juppé is more right (left) but has a very checkered past.  It is unclear to me whether he did wrong or whether he took the blame for his President, Jacques Chirac. Either way, he has been a great Mayor for Bordeaux and, until Sunday, was the overwhelming favorite to win the Primary.

François Fillon—Sunday, after Primary (courtesy of Reuters)

As in the US, themes of economy, immigration and French identity, themes that Ms. Le Pen takes credit for bringing to the forefront, will be the dominating issues.  Fillon also is advocating a nicer, gentler relationship with Putin’s Russia.

Ms. Le Pen and her followers are feeling more confident than ever that she will prevail. Those in the know say whoever runs against her will win the Presidency.  They also said Brexit would never win and Trump didn’t have a chance.

Marine Le Pen, president of the Nationalist Front party (courtesy of Getty Images)

More to come,

A bientôt,

Sara

Back home in the City of Light

While in California, I sent my downstairs neighbor a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I sent it the day after the election.  Being somewhat numb, I couldn’t think what to say so I wrote “Greetings from Oakland” or something banal like that.  When she received it, she texted me “Merci Sara pour la très belle carte du pont de SF qui sera toujours là après les élections….(thank you Sara for the lovely card of SF’s bridge which will still be there after the elections…”)

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I had similar thoughts the morning after I returned.  Sitting at my table, looking out my window on to the Seine and the Pont Neuf, I thought “this scene doesn’t change.  It has survived bad kings, the french revolution, the terror, the commune, World Wars I and II, surely the left can survive four years of the right led by someone who is going to have to take a speed course on the doings of US government.”

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And so my numbness slowly went away.  My jet lag has been relatively mild, just sleeping a lot.  I haven’t turned on the news.  I was hearing horror stories of teens doing very questionable things to non-white teens in their schools.  That was enough.  I’ll get back into my daily life here and sooner or later, things will be very clear on how the wind is blowing in the United States.

I’m told one of the first politicians to call and congratulate Mr. Trump was Marine La Pen, she who would very much like to be the next President of France.  We’ve called her the French Trump because of her stand on immigration.  After Brexit, she was ecstatic and called for a referendum in France.  She wants France to leave the EU.  I don’t think she’ll be called the french Trump anymore, too superstitious.  The French elections are in five months and eyes will be turned this way to see if bad things come in threes.  Ms. La Pen has been building power as immigration becomes the most important issue for almost everyone.  The choices, so far, are not great.

It’s a strange time.  I was born in the aftermath of World War II, grew up in the Kennedy years, became a hippie in my university years and now have watched politics swing as far away from those years as it could possibly get–at least in a democracy.  I’ve been extremely active in politics and I’ve been asleep.  Right now, it seems to me that what is called for is living the best possible life I can lead.  To do random acts of Kindness — because I can.

There is an opinion piece in the New York Times this morning written by Nicolas Kristof titled: A 12 step program for responding to President-Elect Trump.  I thought it inventive and smart.  I pass it on to you:

A bientôt,

Sara

Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, 2016

Dear Friends,

I went to bed last night not knowing a result but it was pretty clear which way the wind was blowing.  I looked on at the commentators in admiration as the night dragged on and they stayed cool, clear headed and just reported the facts.  I went to bed because I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I woke up this morning to the result I saw coming.  The country has a President-Elect.  It’s not Hillary Clinton. All my city and county results were almost exactly what I wanted.

My friends will think I’m being naive.  I am refusing to say anything with hate in it.  I have not turned the TV on but I know that there are protests happening all over the country. It’s certainly a way of getting anger out!   And there is plenty to be angry about.  One thing you can say about Donald Trump is that he didn’t make false promises.  He did not run on unifying the country.  He has no intention of trying to bring together blue and red.  He also made it very clear that he believes in Revenge.  I suspect that will be his number one priority: to get revenge on all those who weren’t with him.  So if you happen to be a member of the blue group or a man named Paul Ryan, there is definitely difficulty ahead.  The similarities to 1933 Germany are striking.  I am looking forward to reading Op Eds from people much smarter than I am on how to move forward.

09eveningss-slide-1PV8-articleLarge.jpg                    Protests in Oakland, California where I am at the moment.

A friend called me and told me to listen to Hillary’s concession speech.  Which I did.  What a woman!  Although I’m sure she was in shock, her speech was gracious while admitting her pain.  And she urged we give Trump open-mindedness.  No one seems to be listening.    I also listened to Kaine, Obama and then Trump.

But what is on all the airwaves is: how could the media have gotten it so wrong.  I was in the UK, two days before the Brexit vote.  It never occurred to me that Brexit might win.  The cab driver who took me to Exeter airport told me that it would win, “just watch” she said, “The leaders have no comprehension what’s happening in this country”  She voted against but she had her finger on the pulse much more so than the media or the leaders.

Seems it was the same for the US.  The media had given Hillary a 75% chance of a win. I believed the media.  I will be be very interested if a consensus is ever reached about the media.  What I saw last night, when NBC put up the map with the red states and the blue states, was that the country had turned red with blue hot spots.  People are pissed off at everyone, at the government that is always in a stalemate, at anyone who represents the establishment.  It’s not dissimilar to me when I was 20, 21, 22 years old and we didn’t trust anyone over 30 years of age.  We wanted to change the world and we caused quite a disruption.  Our one great coup was forcing the end of the Vietnam war.  What will happen with this war?

So many questions.

Please feel free to leave your comments and predictions.  But please no hate statements.     Thank you,

A bientôt,

Sara