Not waving but Drowning

More misspelt ramblings on life in France. This one is all about flag waving (and 

What’s in a flag? Americans fly the good old Stars and Stripes everywhere, there’s even some people got their own flagpole on the front lawn (apparently).

Not sure if the Brits quite go in for the home flag pole thing, but take a stroll down any street in England and chances are you’ll see the flag of St George it could be visibly and ostentatiosly displayed in someone’s window, or it might just be a bumper sticker on the car parked in the driveway.

I say English flag, because we are a nation of different nations, and as fervently as many English people dislay their St George’s cross, so the Scots will proudly display their St Andrew’s cross, whilst the Welsh will unfurl their iconic dragon.

So what’s in a flag? I mean is their anything sinister in displaying your country’s chosen national colours? It is first and foremost a patriotic act. Next question; is their anything sinister in patriotism? When does patriotism degenrate into nationalism?

Friday 27th November 2015, a copule of weeks after the terrorist attrocities in Paris – in a solemn ceremony in the courtyard of the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris – the names of the 130 innocent victims of the 13/11 Paris attacks, are read one-by-one. This is the kind of rememberance ceremony normally reserved for those who fell in combat, those who fell in war; however, President Hollande says that we are officially at war and to this end, under the guise of UN Security Resolution 2249, French planes are carrying out airstrikes on ISIL/Da-ech taregts in Syria. French actions in Syria have led some Facebookers to remove French flags from their pages. In France though, the President appealed for us all to «fly the flag» – our dear old «tricoleur» – the «bleu, blanc, rouge» – In a national show of solidarity or resisitance or just pure patriotism, redolent of transatlantic flag waving, President Hollande asked that last Friday, the French fly their flag everywhere – at home, at work, at school … and we all expected a sea of red white and blue flags flying everywhere. Well it was more a case of the red, white and blues. It was a flag waving flop.

National radio station RTL, conducted a listeners poll on Thursady 26th «Will you be flying the flag tomorrow?» – a resounding 83% said «NON.» Nothing to do with opposition to French air strikes in Syria, nothing to do with «I don’t have a flag at home …»  No, it all came down to the fact, that outside of major sporting events, the French just don’t like to fly the flag.

Born in those first revolutionary days of 1789, the «tricloleur» was a flag of federation. Three days after the storming if the Bastille, Louis XVI made came to Paris wearing the red, white and blue «cocard» of the «Revolutionaries.» At this point, in what was not yet officially the French Revolution, but rather the Parisian mob trying to get their way, there was no question of lopping off Louis’ head, the majority of the god folks of Paris were still loyal to the king, they just wanted him to do a better job and (please do something about your awful Austrian wife.) – So, up rides Louis wearing ha red white and blue rosette piined to his hat – red and blue, the official colours of Paris and white (like the fleur de Lys), the official colour of the monarchy – king and people together in the same emblem – and one year on, in 1790, the king was still alive, France had a new flag and both king and revolutionaries sat down to mark the previous year’s events. Of course, like all revolutions, the French revolution got a little out of hand. For many years, especially in the Third Republic (1871 – 1940), the French had no problem with their flag – it was born from revolution, it was a symbol of the Republic, it was the colours of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – it was also national symbol embraced by all on the left of French politics. In World War II it was a symbol of resistance to Nazi oppression and then after the War – liberty once more – until of course, France got involved in long and bloody wars to maintain grip on empire, and quite a few nasty things got done in the name of … The massacres at Setiff, the bloody battles for Indochina, torture, putsch, the possibility of civl war – the end of French colonial history was gloriously mismanaged on the left and the right (I’d quite happily put François Mitterrand and Jean Matie le Pen within the same bloody brackets for their colonial activities, hastening to add that the first was a clerk in the Vichy regime and had openly fascist sympathies in the run up to WW2 as a member of «La Cagoule».)

Anyway in the 50s and 60, a lot of people fell awy from the flag, then came 1968 where Mao was more popular than the Marseillaise and, then the worst thing happened, our national colours fell into toal indiffernce until they were reappropriated by the far right – the Front National and the complex hive nationalist groups that haunt the shadier and more dangerous edges of the French political spectrum. And this is the current problem with our flag.

In this value based republic, the flag has no basis. It is not the synbol of a country or a people or a history, it is the symbol of a value driven society. We are in a multicultural mish mash where you feel almost ashamed to say that you are French, yet no French person has ever been capable of explaining to me what it means to be French. Currently the French flag floats despondently at half mast because the average Frenchman or woman is too scared to take up the national mantle for fear of being accused of a curious allegience to the far right or simply because our good old tribclour is just «unfashionable»

And here I will add loud and proud my good old Union Jack The Britsh flag is everywhere in France – bags, T shirts, posters; badges, furniture (yes). Since Britpop, the Union Jack has become a vital fashion accessory in France. I’ll see Teenage kids on their way to school, carrying bags emblazoned with the Union Jack, Ill see shops full of Union Jack inspired clothes or accoutrements – I have lived 25 years in this glorious land and everyday, I see more Bristh flags than French flags. So, in the same vein, I see loads of kids wearing Rolling Stones or Ramones T shirts – 12 or 13 years olds on their way to school, wearing T shirts of bands they have never listened to, yet alone heard of, because it is «fashionabele»

Perhaps herein, lies a way to rehabilate the French flag. Those three simple and primary revolutionary colours that symbolise our nation, if you want to buy a flag, you might not get one down the supermarket but you’ll ceratinly get one down at the local joke shop . So, we are not waving our flags, but certainly still drowning in terrorist psychosis, in this country that for politiclly correct reasons, is still firmly juxtaposed with its own flag.

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