Almost two years ago, Donald Trump was sitting next to French president Emmanuel Macron on the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
As a result, there are tanks in DC on July 4, 2019.
This is a first that leaves many uncomfortable and has prompted the US military to tell DC residents not to panic if they spot a tank. Traditionally, showing off one’s warfare is something associated with dictatorships like North Korea.
Or with France, which most definitely isn’t a dictatorship.
America’s oldest ally has been celebrating Bastille Day this way since 1880, inviting friends and allies to join in. While the event is a French cultural tradition and has a long and complex history, a military parade to celebrate Independence Day feels disturbing under the current political climate.
Will it be tanks in our nation’s capital that finally make us realize all is not well in the so-called Land of the Free?
France and America go back a long way.
Even though it no longer enlightens the world as the values it represents are being eroded piecemeal, the iconic Statue of Liberty was a gift from France.
The French influence on the US constitution remains very much present, too, even though the average Trumper is more likely to mention Freedom Fries if you ask them about the relationship between our two countries.
Despite being allies, this doesn’t mean France is supportive of the Trump regime.
France’s former ambassador to the US — the outspoken Gérard Araud who retired recently — was well-known for calling out Trump.
His unedited, heartfelt reaction to Trump’s election on twitter encapsulated what many in the US and abroad felt. For the sake of diplomacy, he was forced to retract it; by then, he had garnered worldwide support for his forthrightness.
On more than one occasion, Araud’s unwillingness to kowtow to Trump landed him in hot water with his bosses at the Quai d’Orsay.
But it never stopped him from being a relentless LGBTQ rights advocate. Every time Trump rolled back LGBTQ rights, Araud reacted with pithy commentary, much to the relief of many French citizens in the US.
Having the courage to stand up for human dignity despite diplomatic constraints is worthy of praise and gratitude.
As is being a beacon of decency in the darkness.
Bluntness is part of the French national character.
For the latest evidence of this, look no further than the G20 video posted on social media by the Élysée Palace last week showing world leaders blanking Ivanka Trump as she tried to make small talk with them.
This video and the decision to release it tell us everything the rest of the Western world thinks of the Trump regime.
The message is clear. While the largest military power in the world cannot be ignored, world leaders are under no obligation to humor it.
It also serves as a reminder that French president Emmanuel Macron — who is known at home and abroad for his uncompromising stance and aversion to circumlocution — doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
Macron’s body language also speaks volume. From a crushing handshake with Trump that lasted longer than it should have at the G7 summit in 2018 and left white marks on the diminutive orange hand to mischievous winks that have been turned into GIFs, the French president will not be intimidated.
As a French American, I’ve been watching America from Europe for most of the last six months. Suffice to say, the current administration is a constant source of worry, embarrassment, and searing shame to me.
Trump is on a one-man mission to bleach the country, turning anyone who isn’t white, male, Christian, or straight into second-class humans.
This isn’t just mortifying, it is so alarming that we should all be incandescent with rage.
Alas, not everyone is.
America is the very last place I thought my history books would come back to life.
For background, I was born and raised in France and I’m the granddaughter of an Easter European immigrant who spent WW2 as a POW in Nazi labor camps.
Because Nie Wieder / Never Again / Plus Jamais is a commitment passed on from one generation to the next in my family; I went on to study German at university level.
Born in 1947, my grandfather’s eldest son, i.e. Dad, can still reel off the extensive list of stalags where my grandpa was being held prisoner.
He knows it by heart and at some point, I need to memorize it, too.
To anyone with basic notions of world history — or even just US history — what’s happening right now looks eerily familiar.
Although I’m currently back in Europe, I’ve lived in Washington State since 2013, where Japanese Americans were interned on Bainbridge Island after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
It was one of the first things I learned about my new home upon immigrating so I wrongly assumed there was zero chance of history repeating itself.
Many of us on this side of the Atlantic view Trump’s re-election as highly possible.
Should it come to pass, we fear it’ll lead to yet more human rights abuses, more deaths, and ultimately to America’s downfall, which will in turn upend the current world order.
If you see something, say something.
For me, today is a day like any other and my refusal to observe it in any way is an expression of dissent.
Dissent isn’t unpatriotic: It’s the only way to avoid complacency, further loss of life, and isolationism.
If we really want something to be proud of again then we need to use our voices to push back this regime of hatred.
And save America while there’s still time.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.