PARIS — I love the United States, the land of all manner of excess, where one can choose between being a transhumanist, a vegan or a poker player. The land of audacity, where democracies can continually experiment with any possible future. Nothing distresses me more than the "anti-American obsession" of the French, to use the phrase of Jean-François Revel. Over the past year, I've traveled to Washington to play a small role in Jackie, to New Hampshire for a libertarian festival, and to Colorado to investigate the legalization of cannabis (a success, by the way). I am also very happy to have recently become a Young Leader of the French-American Foundation.
It is thus in the name of a certain pro-American obsession that I deplore the presence of Donald Trump in Paris for France's July 14th annual Bastille Day ceremonies.
What is the pretext being cited for such an invitation? The centenary of the date the United States entered into the war against Germany in 1917! There is cause for at least a dose of awkwardness with regard to our European allies. Celebrating the role played by the United States to defeat the Nazi Third Reich in World War II was one thing. But don’t be fooled by the history of World War I, which had nothing to do with a struggle for liberty. It was nothing more than meaningless carnage between nation-states, which decimated a generation and obliterated the dream of peace and progress. Are we still here to boast about military strength, territorial conquest and the honor of a sacrificed population? The only responsible attitude would be to collectively reflect on the death wish of nationalism. I doubt that the champion of a warlike protectionism, Donald Trump, is the most appropriate voice to speak on this subject.
Trump has sufficiently expressed the contempt he has for human rights.
We should not forget the symbolic value carried by July 14. Established in 1880, the date of the national holiday refers to both the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, and its one-year anniversary on July 14, 1790, known as the "Fête de la Fédération". As noted on the website of the Elysée presidential palace: "The fête de la fédération softened the violent character of the taking of the Bastille, to create a moderate celebration ... for a common project." It is hard to imagine anything farther removed from our democratic tradition than Donald Trump’s authoritarian desires: his denouncing the judiciary, the use and abuse of executive orders, discriminating against citizens because of their religious beliefs.
Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany — Photo: John Macdougall/DPA/ZUMA
Donald Trump has sufficiently expressed the contempt he has for human rights so as not to merit a place of honor where it is being celebrated.
Trump’s presence along the Champs-Elysées for the July 14 parade is a political error that undermines those in the United States, including members of the Republican party, who are trying to limit the power of a President who mixes incompetence, nepotism and even signs of dementia. How can the most cynical of believers in realpolitik think that such an erratic personality will somehow be persuaded by insistent calls for democratic ideals? Why would France ruin its own party for a president that American history will reject as a regrettable dysfunction of its institutions? What can explain the urgency to be entangled with a head of state already so deeply at odds with his own people? At a time when France is working to reestablish its voice on the world stage, why do we feel the need to defile the values we claim to represent?
In the United Kingdom, a petition against Donald Trump's state visit has already collected over one million signatures. The British want to spare their queen the company of such a boor. Why does the French president need to impose him on us?