Monday, May 26, 2014

Walking blind


Saturday we visited our old picnic spot. I have seen it all of the seasons now - well, all of our seasons in the South of France. After eating and drinking plus spilling a bit of wine, we slept. Remi in the sun, me in the shade and the dogs alternating back and forth between the two. When I woke up, they were restless and so we did the stroll around the perimeter of the vines, the one that I always do, slowly, consciously, as if I were the owner of the land. As if I belonged there.

The sun was piercingly bright, reverberating off the edges of the blue, blue sky. So much so that I couldn't really see what I was doing in taking my photos, those photos, some souvenirs. But I kept clicking away, nonetheless. Pointing at shadows, zooming aimlessly towards forms and definitions. I was walking blind.

This morning, I feel the same for France. In yesterday's elections for the European Union, the Front National party won the day with 25% of the vote and claiming victory in 71 out of France's 101 départements. By doing so, they will now have the greatest number of seats out of the political parties in representing the country for the EU Parliament - which in itself is ironic as the FN wants out of the Union entirely. Today there has been much discussion with some proclaiming that the real tragedy is that 57% of the population did not vote which means that roughly just over 10% of the French chose the FN. Over half did not vote and this is the result. I am reeling, exhausted with disappointment and fear. How else is a foreigner living in this country supposed to feel?

Do I understand that the French economy is not really recovering and that people are frustrated to extremes by a perceived lack of options? I do. But "to extremes"? Just as with that walk I keep taking, I will keep repeating, "Have we learned nothing from History?" France lived through the Second World War. There are those in these streets that knew what it was for Arles to have been occupied by the Nazis. In the United States it is Memorial Day. We are called upon to give respect for those that have fought, who have served and those who lost their lives in the process. We have to remember. To understand what was and what can be.

I want to hear the details of proposed policies beyond ideologies from the Front National party. For this election is solid proof that they are indeed advancing even if stumbling forward while shouting at the sun.









For those of you that read French, you can see an outline of the FN's suggested policies: here.

Thank you for being here, thank you for reading...

To see more from my Contrasts in Provence series, you can do so here and here.

35 comments:

  1. Of course we already talked about it and you know my opinion about this result already. I am sad and restless about it, my arrival in France is only some weeks ahead and even if it is only for a holiday I don't feel the same joy that I did before this elections.
    Because obviously the majority of the french population is against the European Union. And I was feeling comfortable being "European" more than being "German".
    I liked the idea of growing together, working together as Europeans. Learn and benefit from each other, benefit from our differences.
    But that also meant to go through rough times together and resist crisises. This dream seem to pass away at least from the french side.
    Unfortunately I don' hae time now to finish what I wanted to say now. I will finish tonight.

    But thank you Heather for this post and for your beautiful photos.

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    1. Silke, Remi and I have been talking about this all morning. He has a very well-informed take on things and found his perspective echoed in this piece in the Nouvel Obs:
      http://leplus.nouvelobs.com/contribution/1206390-le-front-national-devant-l-ump-et-le-ps-non-le-score-du-fn-n-est-pas-spectaculaire.html
      So, I don't think that it is safe to say that France doesn't want the EU. Take a look at the numbers and let's try and be reassured (a tiny bit) by that.
      And I was wondering if this would influence your feelings about your upcoming vacation...

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    2. Oh, well thank you Heather for this article. After having slept over the whole thing I calmed down a bit. (:

      Still, it is disappointig that so many people in France did not go to vote. Even if there should be no real identification with other parties it was clear that with a low participation the far right gains.

      But enough for today, Heather it will do you good to see and think about something else the next weeks.

      I wish you a lot of fun and that the trip will 'recharge your batteries' (;

      Gros bisous,
      Silke

      PS: I ordered "Its in his Kiss" at amazon.fr because at amazon.de it was not available. I recieved it two days later in the same time that the books from Germany arrrived. C'est un des avantages de EU...

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    3. Thanks, Silke! And enjoy the book - it will change your mind, it is a really fun read. Thanks for buying a fellow writers (and friends) work!
      Bisous,
      H

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  2. A beautiful, thoughtful post - thank you, Sister! And a good reminder that Memorial Day is not just about going to the lake and a BBQ at Mom's! I'm glad you are expressing yourself and I understand your frustrations. And I love the vine wrapped around the barbed wire! See you......soon!!!!!!!

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    1. See you soon Sister! Sending good energy for the moving...

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  3. Hello Heather,

    You make a most valid and disturbing point here. And, indeed, one can only say that throughout Europe there is a most concerning move towards the far right. It is here in Hungary and, with the majority vote for UKIP in the UK, in Britain too. As you say, it is all the more absurd since these are the very parties who want nothing to do with the European Parliament.

    There is so much focus on the negative aspects of the European Union at present that the enormous benefits seem to be overlooked at best and denigrated at worst. Never before, perhaps, have so many been looking but not seeing what lies ahead. A very timely post, beautifully illustrated. Will it open eyes?

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    1. That is a good question although I would imagine that here I am "preaching to the choir." And I remember that you have consistently mentioned the rise of the far-right in Hungary as well. It is frightening. That a member of the Neo-Nazi party will have a chair in the EU Parliament is frightening, devastating.

      Remi and I were talking about what would happen to countries such as France if they pulled out of the EU and the economy would be absolutely decimated. As you say so clearly - why have we completely swept all of the good aspects of this union under the rug? I know it isn't perfect but truly??

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    2. My husband's grandfather was decorated for his part in the French Resistance in Arles during WWII. It is frightening that a member of the Neo-Nazi party was elected in Europe. I can understand the frustration of people in hard economic times but extremes in either side of politics is frightening.

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  4. Hello H. ,
    World War I and II, Remembrance day, The Holocaust.... are topics we always introduce to our upper classes in my school. Watching movies, debates, reading books and poems (such as "In Flanders Fields" by John Mc Crae) are among the activities our students appreciate the most. They also prepare their short dissertation to disccuss during the final exams. They work hard but feel more aware of those historical events.
    I have faith in the young generation.....
    About this political situation all we can do is just to cry...... (for the moment).

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    1. This gave me hope Emilia. Thank you so very,very much for being such a wonderful guide and teacher. Your students are so lucky to have you...

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  5. It is the same over here...I think I was one of the few people out of my circle who bothered to vote. A lot of people don't feel any hope or think it matters anymore. And most votes were just the simple protest vote which doesn't really go in aid of anything...The media here also seem to give UKIP the most time on the broadcasts so ironically they get so much attention and a lot of inadvertent campaigning was done. Part of me does wonder if the EU is then worth it. I mean the UK might disband and here we are trying to fit into the EU - all very complicated Heather and I think I need a lie down now...

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    1. N, I am sorry to have given you a dizzy spell but I am so glad that you chimed in here - I was really curious to hear a POV about what is going on in the UK. And yes!!! If the da*n press wasn't so busy talking about the FN perhaps they wouldn't have had the success that they did...*grrr*

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  6. Heather, this is one of your finest pieces one that left me filled with warmth from your picnic and chilled by the apathy of the voting populace. Since we've been toying with the daydreams of owning a home in Greece one day, we've watched this election more closely than others of the past. You are correct in your observations about the need to remember the past. . .sadly it seems there are fewer who care to remember, or more importantly, learn from the past. You might enjoy reading murder mystery author and fellow American Jeffrey Siger's post this Saturday on Murder Is Everywhere blogspot. He spends half a year in Mykonos and wrote about the Greece election - his post was the same tenor as yours. The hopelessness in voting seems to be a world-wide characteristic as evidenced by the apathy and lack of participation in the democratic process by Americans as well. We owe it to those who gave their lives to assure us these freedoms, and who we remember today, to at least 'sacrifice' a few minutes in the voting booth and maybe even a few minutes more to become informed on who the candidates are and what they stand for. (Whew. . .thanks, got that off my chest!)

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    1. This is so very beautifully put, Jackie. Thank you so much - and for your incredible compliment too. I thought of you today in hearing on the news that one third of the population in Greece can't afford to pay their taxes. I know of your dream but it is such a troubled economy - you know far, far more than I - so I would just suggest prudence during this troubled time in terms of buying a house. We are waiting too to see how things will be in the next year...
      Oh! And thanks for the suggestion! I will go take a look. :)

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  7. Thank you, Heather, for this beautiful and incredibly thoughtful post about some very scary and unhappy developments. I really appreciate hearing about this from you and Remi in Arles. It really brings it all home. Sending virtual hugs...

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    1. Taking them and sending them right back...

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  8. What a startling contrast between your idyllic photos and prose of political unrest...

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    1. Thanks for appreciating that, Kim, it what I was aiming for!

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    2. Have you by any chance heard the song "Godless Brother" by Iron and Wine? Keep thinking of this post and those lyrics....

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  9. Dear Heather, tuning in from Sofia today as I was sent here for a few days by my company. And what can I add to what you have beautifully written? Even in Malta the Far Right got 8000 votes. Some people were calling it a protest vote against the two big political parties. But it was not. There were other candidates that could have been given a protest vote (political thinking on our island is very skewed and immature but I won't go into that here). So no, it was not a protest vote but a conscious choice. Which is frightening, yes. But I cannot say I am surprised. After the last war, Europe lost the plot. Too many people have been given too much for free by governments who thought that the good years would last forever. And to top all that I think that too many liberties have been given to people of other religions and cultures. I know that that sounds harsh. But if is a fact. And when you try to superimpose these cultures on existing traditions which pre-date the Roman Empire, then trouble starts to brew. This continent has, unfortunately, always been a hotbed of strife and, in one way or another, I believe some type of trouble will rear its ugly head again soon.

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    1. How I hope you are wrong, Loree but I fear that there will be a conflict at the end of this. When Jean-Marie Le Pen (the Father of Marine Le Pen who is currently running the Front National party) made it to the end of the presidential elections against Jaques Chirac (who won, thank Goodness), I was proud to walk in a million people march against him. But I don't think that things will go down quite so peacefully in the future - I hope that I am wrong too!

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  10. There are few things as frustrating as apathy, in my opinion.

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    1. Perfectly expressed, as always, ma chere SP...

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  11. Slim, in my frustration re apathy, especially people who don't vote, I imagine a way that remarks and comments by non voters would show up in a different font as they rage against this or that or how their voice isn't heard. Or in a passive aggressive vein, show up in almost impossible to read palest yellow.

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    1. Joan, you are one of a kind. I am so grateful that you like it here.

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    2. hmmm, is that written in pale yellow? :-) I love it here. Thanks for creating and curating here.

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  12. It is sad that more than half did not vote here either and the populists are gaining all over Europe. However, I believe many people are so deeply disappointed in their politicians with the never-ending austerity measures hitting the general public (often favouring the interests of the shareholders of large companies) that they have gone to extremes as a protest, not necessarily because they would support the ideas of the populist parties. The traditional parties should learn from this: to find out what are the reasons behind the general dissatisfaction and change their own politics to improve the situation of the man in the street, not that of capital. Isn't that the only peaceful way to change the world for the better for everyone? I am not entirely confident man is wise enough to do it this way but I am hopeful.

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    1. Merci, merci for your wise, centered words and perspective. Remi told me at lunch today about listening to an interview on the news regarding a village that voted 80% FN. And it turns out that it is a farming community where nearly everyone has had something stolen and sometimes repeatedly - equipment, animals, products - by roving bands from elsewhere in Europe. The police do nothing as it is a tricky situation and so they are fed-up. As the FN is the only party talking about tightening security, as much as that party disgusts me, I can understand why that village voted that way.

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  13. There are things hard to explain but I love all the photos: the green and the grey and those intertwining vines, even the clouds.
    Have a safe trip to your other home and Mom.

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    1. Thank you Edgar, that is much appreciated.

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  14. First of all, I love that there are still places you can go and have a picnic and a siesta in peace and security. Secondly, I thought of you and your concerns when the results of the election started to come through on the BBC. Voter apathy is a problem the world over. Part of the problem lies with the political candidates and their inability to engage the wider public. I don't know what the solution is, but I did find some comfort in this TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind

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  15. ….Also observing that there seems to be more and more disconnect from politics…apathy (as mentioned above by Slim Paley) is frustrating but dangerous too….Now what was that fabulous quote I read the other day.. ah yes, I remember now…"The agitator complains about the river being dirty, but the true activist cleans it up." Or words to that effect. Are we all becoming agitators then? Shame on us.

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  16. I felt this coming before I left France. I'm scared of what's coming next. x.

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