Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day / Bonne Fête Nationale

A powerful scene from Casablanca, which is even more poignant when one considers the words of the anthem...

especially the part about spilling the "impure blood" of the tyrannical occupiers and using it to water the "furrows of our fields." I think that whole "impure blood" thing didn't set well with the Nazis...

The national anthem of the United States is a martial anthem to be sure, but I think La Marseillaise takes the cake for goriness, unless, of course, The Onion's report about the Star Spangled Banner's missing verses is true:

One more beautiful rendition of the French anthem is this 1989 black and white performance by Mireille Mathieu:

Vive La France!


Ted Badje said...

Will you or your wife bake a cake for Bastille day, since the revolutionaries regarded the Bastille as the big oven, and the King and Queen were the baker and his wife?

I am not a big Francophile, but the scene from Casablanca was poignant, and put a lump in my throat.

Some people regard the Star-Spangled Banner as martial enough already without the extra verses. I like the cheering for our team sentiment. Freedom is not free.

You have to take songs in their time context. People were nationalistic, and did not like it when foreign armies invaded their land, as it often happened in 18th century Europe.

Rev. Jack A. Kozak said...

The French are funny. Terrible allies, but you can't touch them on bloodthirsty lyrics. Just listen to "Ah, ca ira" sometime. Catchy tune, but don't let the kids get ahold of the translation.

William Gleason said...

Interesting rebuttal here, Fr. Beane:


Thanks for keeping up a most interesting blog.

Fr. Bill Gleason

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jack:

Terrible allies? There would be no United States were it not for the French. But then again, I don't believe in all that "allies" stuff. Countries do not ally with us or anyone else out of altruism or love, but rather out of political exigencies and self-interest. We should not delude ourselves. And I think we should remain neutral and avoid international entanglements (as George Washington and our founders argued).

I think bloody nationalist lyrics are a direct result to being occupied. Nobody likes to be occupied. It enrages people. The Star Spangled Banner was written in response to occupation. The Marsellaise was sung with gusto during Nazi occupation. We Southerners have a few anthems as well.

Aside from the South, Americans have very little collective memory of invasion, occupation, and "reconstruction" by foreign troops - and the inevitable atrocities, war crimes, and political corruption that go along with them.

Such occupations are the source of generational hatreds and extreme nationalism - and if such occupation becomes permanent, then even terrorism. And most peoples have much longer collective memories than Americans. We have no clue how bitter the experience of foreign occupation is, nor how the desire for home rule can make people outright bloodthirsty.

I have never heard of Ah, Ca Ira. Maybe I'll teach it to Leo. ;-)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Ted:

No cake. Just a normal hot day in Louisiana. :-)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Bill:

Thanks for the article. Every country has some kind of national festival - usually rooted in some national mythology.

Bastille Day just happens to be the French National holiday. Our own 4th of July is also bunk. Instead of commemorating American Independence - which was declared on July 2nd - we celebrate a congressional resolution, an act of political bureaucracy. It would be years later before independence was actually achieved and recognized by the world.

I read a recent quote from historian Clyde Wilson regarding the shift in our own national mythology from Washington to Lincoln as memorialized in their respective statuary: "The symbol of America has been transformed from George Washington on his white horse to a corporate lawyer/lobbyist in an armchair." And if you look at Lincoln's armchair at the Mall, you will see fasces - the same symbol as on the reverse of the FDR dime. Very appropriate.

Of course, I prefer February 22 as independence day... ;-)

William Gleason said...

I saw that quote from Wilson on LRC re the fascis on the Lincoln shrine. I have known about those for some time now. Yet, whenever I point it out to people, nobody seems to understand the significance or even cares. And of course, trying to explain things like the origins of "red, white, and blue," and other revolutionary history makes their eyes glaze over.

February 22...Washington's birthday?

Rev. Jack A. Kozak said...

Permit me to correct myself and say that the French are not 'currently' or 'since 1917' the best of allies.

I am not as up on the French Revolution as I should be, but I don't think France was occupied by foreign powers in the late 1790s. I thought the revolution was against the ruling aristocracy and the RC church. Perhaps the Vatican is the occupier? "Ca Ira" is quite explicit in hatred for the clergy and church, and predates La Marseillaise by a few years.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jack:

No, but the anthem becomes more poignant in times of occupation. Just as in the days after 911, the Star Spangled Banner took on a new meaning.

France was an American ally in WW2.

But then again, to us, the word "ally" carries less the meaning of "friend" and more of "puppet."

Ally means we get military bases on your land, you don't get any on ours. It means your troops serve under our command, we don;t serve under yours. You dip your flag to us, we don't dip ours to anyone.

So, in the current world order, not everyone wants to be an American "ally" - at least if they value their own sovereignty.

If "Ca Ira" expresses hatred for Roman Catholic clergy, maybe CPH could use it for a special Reformation Day-themed VBS. ;-)