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Liveblogging Philosophy

Bhl Bernhard-Henri Levy is addressing the conference I am attending and speaking of the relationship between America and France.

He told an amusing story about flying with John Kerry's entourage with a view to interviewing him for a book. This was three days before Kerry lost the Presidential election. Time after time he was put off from meeting Kerry by the candidate's minders with such stories as "the candidate is sleeping, but will see you later."

Eventually an American journalist explained to him, laughing, that it would be electoral suicide for Kerry to be seen with a Frenchman at such a time, given how unpopular France is in the States. Only by threatening to issue a press release to Agence France Presse, saying that he could not meet the candidate "because he sleeps all day long" did he finally get his interview.

He then went on to explain that the feeling is mutual. Indeed he said that anti-Americanism is France's "last religion" and tried to explain why. He referred to Rousseau's observation that the citizens of the fledgling America were united only by "un chiffon de papier" (i.e. the Constitution). French thinkers of the time believed that if America were to survive, it would be only as a weak and inconsequential nation. When it became apparent how untrue that was, there was a reaction of anger. He said that the real enemy of the Nazis was America, precisely because it was a nation united by paper, not blood.

All anti-democratic currents in France (e.g. on the "extreme right") are fed by a hatred of America not as a geographical place, but as a metaphysical category. It is a reaction of "French fascism" (i.e. a vision of a nation united by blood ties) against "American populism" (and vice versa).

He said some other interesting and amusing things, for example that:

If there are two people who believe that God has put his finger on their foreheads to indicate that they are uniquely appointed to represent the best in the world, then one of them is a fake. This explains much in our relations.

He believes that the founding fathers of the United States intended, not merely to establish a country free from the tyrannies of the Old World, but to create an exemplar of all that Europe could be without tyranny. He compares that with the French sense of a mission to civilise, which is something they have in common. He quotes Malraux saying:

France is never so great as when she is great for everybody

In conclusion, he said that the tension in Franco-American relations; this sense in each country that the other embodies the worst of humanity - is really all a mistake. France and America share the same values and have waged the same fights, for example against Nazism and the "second fascism" of Communism. He said that France and the USA are now engaged together in the fight against the "third fascism; the fascism of today" - namely Islamism ("not Islam of course, which is a great religion") but the bin Laden perversion. In practice, he said, the "third fascism" makes no distinction between the New and the Old World of the West.

They have declared a total nihilist war, which we have no choice but to wage together.

How very French, that such a view can be spoken so fiercely after such a frank and elegant commentary. The applause was nervous, but I confess to being impressed. Where are such voices in England?


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I live in the mountains of Tennessee where we do not discuss or pay much attention to the anti-American rhetoric from France. We are much more concerned with our own government. We also resent the fact that most media types, when they notice us, tar us with the old, tired, insulting stereotype of southerners being racist, red-neck, intolerant and stupid.

We still teach Tom Paine in our local high school and his major contribution to the cause of liberty and the fact that his writings played an important role in rallying the common person to the revolution.

Troy Camplin, Ph.D.

The voices in England are in the same place as the voices in America -- online.

James G.

France and America share the same values

With different emphases...

France's revolution emphasised equality, whilst America's (which, could be argued, was more of a culmination of the spirit of 1688) emphasised liberty.

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