I have always been that kind of girl, who is careful not to wear blue and red clothes in the same outfit. I’ve always made sure not to have on a blue scarf when I had red lipstick on. Details are important.
I have always been intent not to say “my country,” “my people” or even worse, “my nation.” You should never say what you don’t think.
At times when I realize that I am whistling the French national anthem in the shower, I always shut my mouth. What a shame, who still sings this anthem now? Who is the fascist who sings the anthem?
I have always had a bad image of the people who put a French flag in their backyard. I remember my friend Thibault, who had built a pole in order to hang a huge flag in the midst of his garden. I almost felt guilty. As if, being his friend, I approved of his decision.
However, I’ve always carried the wonderful colors of my region, Brittany, and my Britain culture. I have carried my Gwen Ha Du, the Britain flag, everywhere. We did a tour of Brittany on foot; we walked within the depths of Sahara together; it even followed me to the United States and on all my other trips. We have posed together almost everywhere, and like Neil Armstrong, I was proud to mark my territory, participating in Britain’s limitless colonization.
And I ended up in this country. I already knew, having watched Spiderman, that Americans really REALLY liked flags. But I have to admit, I did not expect to see them so frequently. I have seen a flag that must be bigger than the surface of my room on the road to Knoxville, Tenn. I have seen people crying while listening to the national anthem, which was sung just before a college football game. I have heard people affirming that their beautiful nation was the best one and that no other country could ever compare with the United States. And it made me laugh!
On Friday, Nov. 13: blackout. Time stopped. Assholes shot my people. Not in Brittany, in Paris. Those Parisians we curse on the road because they drive so badly and invade our Britain beaches for summer. Those Parisians that we say are rude and haughty mannered. Those guys who, us Britains, generally do not like to be associated with. Assholes shot them while they were hanging out in a bar or enjoying a concert.
And I, 7,000 miles away, along with 67 million French people, I bled, blue, white and red.
My first reflex was to check the news and then text my French friend Quentin in North Carolina: “Quentin, can we stick together?”
“Yes, we all are links of the same chain, the one of our national community, of our family actually! So yes, we’ll stick together!” he replied.
Then I began to look for some blue, some white and some red. I am looking for my home, looking for my country, looking for my people. For the first time, I mourn France. This time, it is not only Charlie, not just freedom of speech. It is you, me, us. For the first time, I say “my” country. I say “my” people. For the first time, I realize that I love my country.
Marianne, my beautiful Marianne, if you just knew how stupid I feel. So stupid. I’ve never been proud of my country before. And I don’t want people to call me a “nationalist,” Marianne. I was afraid that people would think I am racist. I did not want people to assume.
It is like in those stupid Hollywood romantic comedies in which the protagonists hate each other during the whole movie but are secretly and unconsciously in love. And at the end, one of them has to be close to death, for the other to realize his or her feelings.
Marianne, you had to be threatened. 132 of your children had to pass away for me to realize that I love you and care for you. Those assholes had to shoot us like hunters do rabbits for me to willingly carry the French flag and to wear my blue pullover with this red scarf. We had to bleed to that point for me to get on my knees for you.
The next Monday, at my small university in the middle of Tennessee with my friend Marie, we lit blue, white and red candles. We spoke the names of your children who passed away on Friday, and then I sang la Marseillaise, our national anthem, loud and willingly, for the first time.
I will never be as patriotic as Americans. For, I must admit, that sometimes it is a little bit scary. But I know now that everything has changed. Marianne, your stupid daughter begs your pardon.
The next time I vote, I will know why I do so.
* Marianne is the symbol of the French Republic