Friday, August 3, 2007

Le Divorce?

This weekend we visited the homes, universities, and museums of some of the founding fathers (Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe), while learning oodles about U.S. history what amazed me was how closely intertwined the U.S. and France were during this period; financially, philosophically, intellectually, and through numerous partnerships, friendships and alliances. During the late 18th century, both the U.S. and France were in pre and post Revolutionary periods, each was the others' main backer in the fight against monarchy (English or French). France went into debt financing the U.S. Revolution and Lafayette amongst others come over here to lend a hand (or observe and even praise in the case of Toqueville) and formed lastings friendships with Washington and others...

In all three of the houses we visited (save Madison's which is under renovation)- there were myriad references to France and Europe (Monroe's daughter was best friends with Eugenie (Napoleon's daughter in law whom he married to his brother)), furniture, books (one of Monroe's bookcases was entirely comprised of French books - books on the French Constitution, history...) - and both Franklin and Jefferson spent years upon years in Paris - bringing back furniture, customs, friendships, and a very open view towards Europe. When Jefferson served as U.S. Ambassador in France, his offices were housed at Versailles (i.e. in the "home" of the King!). They went abroad to build relationships and learn, especially from the French. Our countries were not only allies, we were close friends. We were similar-minded and fighting for the same truths and ideals.

During this period we were born of revolution and freedom from religious persecution, we were born of the Enlightenment - we both drafted constitutions and declarations of rights for "all" men - only the U.S.'s had a clause about the right to bear arms. I wonder if this simple sentence comprised of only a few words plays a big, big part in the question that I am asking.

When did this break occur, when and where were the signs that pointed towards the resultant divorce? Will relations ever be what they used to be or having grown and matured, are we just too different now to ever be that close again? We have gotten used to this froid relationship with France, and my generation doesnt have a living memory of anything different. Which is why visiting the grounds of our birth as a country makes this point shockingly real. Visting the homes of the founding fathers is a lesson in US history but also in what was happening in France at the time and a lesson about the love between our two countries.

England has certainly taken the place that was once held by France - which given that we fought a war against England for our freedom and independence is ironic. Or is it? Looking at world history there are numerous stories of countries being allies, enemies, occupying one another... (e.g. France and Germany who now share the drivers seat in the EU).

When did we grow apart? Was it the changes in our countries during the industrial revolutions? Was it during the periods of Empire and colonization? Was it due to when we have (or have not) abolished the death penalty? Segregation? The differences in urban landscapes? The Cold War? The rise of globalization? Was it that one country housed two world wars while the other fought them offshores?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How Networking works...

Having come across this article deciphering French networking events and supplying a short list of excellent French associations/networking events stateside, I invite you to visit the link below:

Polly Platt's French or Foe has some interesting advice about this as well, feel free to browse her website for additional articles, commentary: