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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Marine Le Pen in America

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the right-wing French party, Le Front National, will cross the Atlantic for a five day tour of the United States. According to her agenda, she begins her pilgrimage in New York where she will meet with French-speaking diplomats and ambassadors at the United Nations and then she is scheduled to give a speech at the Republican Women's Club on 51st street.  Later in the week she will go south to Florida to meet with French expatriates there and possibly with members of the Democrat party.

Her voyage is not without controversy.  Clearly the purpose of the trip is to demonstrate that she has the stature to move in the international political and diplomatic realms.  A blog in the French paper, Le Figaro, is putting this spin on her trip to the U.S.:

Etrange initiative pour quelqu’un qui défend le "chacun chez soi", qui tonne régulièrement contre "l’impérialisme yankee" et qui vient de déclarer sa flamme à Vladimir Poutine, le tsar russe dont la politique autoritaire et centralisatrice est à l’opposé du modèle américain.
Strange initiative for someone who defends "each to his own home", who regularly cries out against "yankee imperialism" and who has just declared her fondness for Vladimir Putin, the Russian tsar whose authoritarianism and centralizing politics are at odd with the American model.

Point.  But he goes on to say that one purpose of her visit is to meet with Tea Party members - this strange grassroots Right-wing movement that is sort of under the wings of the Republican when it absolutely must declare party affiliation but is probably much broader than, and certainly at odds with, any establishment, Democrat or Republican.

And here I think Yves Thréard goes a bit too far.  Yes, she has tried to meet with representatives of the Tea Party but a quick look at her agenda shows that she is not confining her attentions to them in particular.  Perhaps there is an affinity between her philosophy and theirs but that certainly isn't stopping her from trying to meet with the more mainstream established parties as well.

Alas, we may never find out if the Front National can find common ground with the Tea Party or other political creatures in American because they do not seem terribly interested in meeting her.  According to The Telegraph, Ron Paul has cancelled a visit with her due to "scheduling problems."

And I think that is a shame for two reasons.  The first is that I find myself very disappointed in the Tea Party overall and Mr. Paul in particular, for their lack of courtesy.  Gentlemen, where are your manners? Call me old-fashioned but didn't your mothers teach you that when you make a date with a lady you have a certain obligation to show up even if you have already decided you'd rather dance with someone else?

And the second is the sheer lack of intellectual curiosity and courage displayed by my compatriots.  I am no fan of Marine Le Pen and her ilk.  When I go to the Front National website my reaction is visceral - some of their rhetoric literally makes my stomach hurt.  When confronted by politics that I strongly dislike and that threaten me and my family, my first impulse is to make the sign of the cross and say, "Exorcizo te, omnis spiritus immunde, in nomine Dei..."  This is not only pointless, it is childish.  Their ability to provoke this reaction in me means that I need to listen twice as hard to what they have to say not only for my own protection but because maybe, just maybe, there is something in their message that I need to hear and might actually agree with. 

I doubt that the Tea Party and Le Pen will find much common ground but their decision to forgo a meeting deprives everyone (including them) of a chance to find out.  Whether their actions are based on fear ("guilt by association") or sheer ignorance, I cannot know, but I am convinced of this:  When you fear something it is your master.  And when you find your master, you have found a teacher.

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