How freeing to discover the curious way French acquaintances and friends are judging the US. Fortunately Trump is not sucking out all the oxygen. While they despise him, they’re perplexed by this passing nightmare and don’t hold it against us. They’re too sophistcated to think people are defined by government, or a job, or whatever.
The residual image I heard evoked is the North American sky. Our big sky, our wide horizon that stretches imaginatively from one invisible pole to another. The immensity of that sky, the cut-freeness makes them sigh. It signifies space apart from set patterns and expectations, from deep tradition. These same people are staunchly defending their core French values – egalité, civility and decency. The sigh is about regimen, tradition, shuffling to the same beat. Americans might find it charming that everyone rushes to lunch at midi, less charming to sit in six hours of traffic crossing from Spain to France because everyone takes the same vacation schedule. That big open permissable sky is the one they talk of reverently and breathe deeply.
Baudelaire wrote a wonderful poem in which a stranger is asked what he loves: country, God, family. He denies it all. The only thing he loves are clouds. They can’t take that away from him. The stranger brings valuable vision and truth. As an antidote to the stifling weight of the US now, I’m bringing along the stranger’s vision of big clouds and big sky.