We love them, we hate them. We admire them, we make fun of them. But through it all, up or down, ties between our two countries have helped to shape and define each of our respective nations. There’s no getting around it: America has a love/hate relationship with the French.
The recent attacks in Paris, which left more than 120 people dead, horrified the world — America included. Overnight, messages of sympathy and support flooded social media websites along with photos of the Eiffel Tower and French flags. Local and national news sources altered their programming to keep viewers updated on the latest information.
President Obama called the attacks “outrageous” stating that “it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”
Right now, we love the French.
But like that big sister who is always telling you how you should live your life, there’s been some resentment over the years. World War II is always a sore subject between the two nations. Americans have a tendency to take credit for “bailing out the French” while conveniently leaving out the part about the Russians in the East.
The French were often equated as cowards for falling to the Nazis when in reality, the wounds of WWI, (where one out of every two Frenchmen aged 22-32 were killed),had barely begun to heal.
But like that big sister, bickering aside, France has always been there for the states. During the American Revolution, it was the French who came to the budding nation’s aide against the English crown. In turn, America was an early supporter for the first French republic.
An American helped to draft the French Declaration of Rights, a Frenchman designed Washington DC. Even the Statue of Liberty, a symbol known world wide for hope and freedom, was a gift from the French.
Things got weird between the two countries again after France opted to stay out of the Iraq War prompting congressional cafeterias as well as restaurants across the country to rename their cut up fried potatoes “freedom fries.”
But, like any family, we can never stay mad at each other for long. With the 2007 election of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, aka “Sarko the American,” relations took a serious upswing, culminating in the multi-state coalition which set up the military intervention into Lybia in 2011.
When François Hollande was elected in 2012, things continued their upward trajectory. In fact, Hollande’s state visit to the United States marked the first in 20 years by a French leader and news featuring him with President Obama circulated simultaneously between The Washington Post and Le Monde.
Included was a fair, albeit brief, sum up of Franco-American relations: “We were allies in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette. We are still allies today,” said Hollande during his visit. “We were friends at the time of Jefferson and Lafayette and will remain friends forever.”
Our two nations may squabble here and there, but when push comes to shove, no one better mess with our big sister.