inessential by Brent Simmons


When I think of France, I think of the Enlightenment; I think of Voltaire, Diderot, and Moliere. I think of the nation that gave us the Statue of Liberty, the nation of Descartes and Pascal, the nation of wine and cheese and bread and people unashamed to admit their pleasures. I think of the Resistance fighters, I think of that warm and welcoming Paris that was home to Picasso and Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway.

Every nation has a side that sides with devil. I don’t think of the Reign of Terror and the guillotine, Napoleon’s bloody conquests, the Dreyfuss affair, the Vichy government, French collaborationists.

Why would I think of those things? They’re not part of the France that’s in my heart.

Lately, between Jean-Marie le Pen and the resurgence of anti-Semitism, it’s been hard to ignore the side of the devil in France.

But then on Mayday more than a million people took to the streets to rally against le Pen.

To that I say: thank you.