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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Story Time: Debate in French

Saturday night we were at the parent's house in Genas and family was invited to dinner.  The thing about family, in any country or language, is not everyone can agree at everything.  I realized this when I was asked, in a very accusatory manner,

"Pourquoi est-ce que Barack Obama a fait rien?  Il a crée tous ces éspoirs mais aucune chose a passé!!"
Like it's my fault the media plays against my President in France and it's not like I know him personally and we hang out or anything.  Basically he meant to say, why is it that your President was so worshipped by the world and now he's not curing cancer or turning water to wine?

I explained, nicely, that although it appears as though nothing as passed.. it's because the news in France tends to be a bit ethnocentric with what they show.. mostly French news- or an interpretation of American news.  Same thing we do back home.

The hype that surrounded my president during 2008 came from the fact he was fresh breath of air from the previous 8 years.  Europe loved Obama.. they idealized him.  French people would never wear their own flag, but people were smocked in the street with Obama T-Shirts, smiling and waving their Ameriphile-ness.  New York suddenly became fancy again and the hatred that used to surround Americans dissipated and we became the golden children.

Except now, due to this phenomena, it's every American expatriate's duty to keep up on current affairs in order to be able to detail exactly what the president has done. 

I explained the heath bill getting passed, the fact that the Government retook the loans so they could control the amounts, the movement of Iraq troops back into Afghanistan.  I kindly noted that my president is my president, not the French president.  He's not meant to change the world for Christ's sake, only ameliorate my own country (which was so utterly failing after George Bush).

I have a simple advice to Americans in France or ANYWHERE in Europe:  Know the current events in America and in Europe.

The awful stereotype (which tends to be true in general) is that Americans are the dumbest most ill-informed and ethnocentric group of citizens on the planet.  The French love to mock and tease, saying that we only know the "Eiffel Tower" and the "TGV".  We stick to our guns while stuffing our face with burgers and bad beer- but while that is true of many places, it's even more important for those of us who are expatriates to represent our country.  We're not just here to escape, because you'll never escape and be 100% European- it's impossible- but we are here as representatives.

So, as I learned on Saturday, even though I'm not a personal 'fan' of my country I make an effort to stick up for her- because I'll tell you what... you mess with MY mama, and you're messin' with me.

Some good debating terms:

N'importe quoi:  It means, whatever, or 'are you kidding?'
T'es têtu:  You're stubborn!
Je suis pas d'accord:  I'm not in agreement
Ethnocentique:  Means egotistic about your own country
La Droite:  the right, like republicans
La Gauche:  The left, democrats
L'êxtreme droite, 'tea party':  The tea party candidates, which all French people have a good laugh
T'es grave or c'est grave:  the first means, 'you're really lost and I can't save you, too sad (not emotionally, sarcastically), and the second, 'it's too bad'.

I'd read the news in English and write down some words, use a dictionary, find the equivalent.  It's better to look smart.. plus it feels SO GOOD when the person you are debating with, in French, concedes.

Bon chance, bon courage,



  1. Great attitude! And if you need more ammo when the subject comes up again, here's a list of the administration's accomplishments in just the first year: http://mediamatters.org/research/201001270003 . You can add to it extensive new regulations on banking, intended to help prevent another meltdown like the recent one.

  2. Of course, I love what Senator Franken said about this whole mess and where Obama is at right now:

    "But let’s remember how we got here. The month Barack Obama was sworn in we lost 750,000 jobs in this country. With all due respect to the President, I think his analogy that the economy was a car in a ditch when he took office is just a little too static. Here’s my analogy, which, in my opinion, is both more kinetic and, frankly, far more accurate.

    When the President took office, not only had the car gone into a ditch, the car had flipped over and was rolling down a steep embankment. We, the American people, were in the back seat, and the Bush Administration had removed all the seat belts, so we were all flying around the interior of this car as it was rolling and flipping and careening down this steep embankment, headed to a 2,000 foot cliff. And at the bottom of that cliff were jagged rocks. And alligators.

    Now, at noon on January 20th, 2009, as the car was careening toward the cliff, George W. Bush jumped out of the car.

    President Obama somehow managed to dive in through the window, take the wheel and get control of the thing just inches before it went over the precipice. Then, he and Congress starting pushing this wreck back up the embankment. Now you can’t push a car up an embankment as fast as it careens down the embankment, especially if some people are trying to push against you. But we got it going in the right direction. And slowly we’ve gotten ourselves up the embankment, out of the ditch and onto the shoulder of the road.

    There. That’s what happened."


    People don't realize how bad it was when Barack Obama took office. I honestly think that he and the G8 saved the world from the Greater Depression. And it's not over. We are still spending billions on the military. But I have my own theories as to that...


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