Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy Fourth of July




Apparently we're not going to have a Fourth of July celebration here this year. We didn't get our act together soon enough and we'd be celebrating with mostly Australians, British and Canadians which seems rather odd to me. I'm sure the British would be good sports, and we would have had a nice party. But I'm having a little trouble mustering up much patriotism and probably won't be able to for a little while longer. I'm sure you can imagine why.

So I'll show you some pictures of the WWI monument here in Leran. This is a small village but look closely and you can see quite a few names of the soldiers who died in France or Belgium from 1914 to 1917. It is an incredible percentage of the population of Leran. There are three war dead named Boulbes and another Boulbes that died in Algeria. Jean Boulbes is our plumber. No doubt he has ancestors carved on that monument. This is not unusual at all, in fact, it is astounding to go into a tiny French village and see the disproportionate number of names on the monuments. Many of them have also listed the names of those who died in WWII or Indochina (VietNam) and some have monuments for the Jews who perished and those who died in "le Resistance".

I've not been in a single French town where I didn't stumble across a similar monument. Paris, Lyon, Toulouse and Montpellier probably have them too. I don't know how many French died in WWI but it took a terrific toll on the young manhood of France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and to a lesser degree, the United States (I'm a little hazy on the casualties of some of the other combatants in the War to End All Wars). I cannot help thinking each time I see one of these monuments in France, "What a tremendous waste". As I recall, the German offensive stalled somewhere past the French border and became a series of small advances and retreats over almost insignificant patches of land at a horrendous cost of human lives. Generals simply wasted lives and the term "cannon fodder" was not an exaggeration. And I see these monuments and I think I understand a little the French behavior at the beginning of WWII. They were simply not prepared to make another sacrifice like the one made a generation earlier.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I was in St. Petersburg and Moscow and some of the smaller towns in Russia and saw so many monuments to the WWII dead, which numbered in the millions, I had that same overwhelming sense of "waste". It doesn't matter whether our countries are ideologically opposed or alligned...the waste of so many lives cannot help but sadden us deeply.

When wars are fought on one's own soil, as in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War in America, the local populace rarely escapes unscathed and without personal knowledge of the casualties of battle. Sadly, the French know this all to well, having been involved in so many wars over so many centuries.

Luke is getting depressed with the state of the world, past and present, so I will sign off. Happy 4th of July mes amis!

Anonymous said...

One last thought for the day. Luke loves reading everyone else's remarks about your various "adventures"...both domestic and international! I feel like I have met some new friends amongst your family and friends...just another pleasure offered by reading your blog!

Thanks for sharing.

leslie said...

Doug and Nancy, One of my favorite things is that with what lousy French I can muster is to talk to the older folks about WW2. I am fascinated with la resistance and have talked to a few poeple about their memories of France during the war. They love to know that dad flew a B24 and when I tell them about his post war stuff they really empathize. When we were in France with the kids in 86 I had my first conversation with Madame Gaffett, our landlady, where I was able to discuss abstract thoughts, talk a little politics etc. Last fall with Sarah and Seth I had a great conversation with the ice cream man about Cuba. It feels like such an accomplishment to be able to talk to them. I also remember when Darrell and I were there in 71, a bum, un clochard, came to the restaurant where we were eating in Montmartre, ordered a fine meal and then et it and absconded, the thing was though, I was so impressed with his French. Keep at it. Speak as much French as you can, they will love you for it and they don't think you are stupid, you lnow how it is with a frenchman trying to speak english. You admire them for trying. Just get past that hurdle of being embarassed or tying tosay exactly the right thing, the more you hang out with French people the better you will do. It is repetition, hearing the same phrases over and over, finally they click in your brain. The three day delay, suddenly realizing what you said or someone else said to you is so weird but it used to happen to me all the time. Amusez-vous bien sur le Quartorze Juillet. Ta belle soeur

leslie said...

Sorry, Im at work and I type fast and don't correct because I want to get my words down fast and not get caught, I think you can tell the typos from the rest.

Harley said...

Your comments about WWII in France brought back memories of a favorite professor, M. Wencelius, who endeavored to infuse me with French literature while I was studying (when I could fit it in) in Aix-en-Provence. He and his wife often invited me and some friends to their little home in a village outside Aix, where they lived with their son, Georges. In the course of feeding us, teaching us about cheeses, wines, and how to make risotta using a pound of butter, M. et Mme told us bits and pieces about their years in the French Resistance. When I asked what they did, the reply was, "Mostly blew up bridges," in a very matter of fact manner. They indicated that the two of them hid out in the woods in caves, eating whatever they could find, trying to avoid contact with the Germans except on their own schedule. How I wish I had asked more questions and paid more attention! So, I encourage you to find out what you can from the folks who are still alive to tell you about it. These are memories that shouldn't die!