Saturday, July 4, 2015


As happens in other parts of the world, with some pompous exceptions which will remain unnamed, America's 4th of July will be celebrated with the usual barbecues and fireworks. This world power prefers to embrace rather than to impress.

As a European, American resident, I remain impressed by how different the old and the new continents are.  In his book Cousins and Strangers Chris Patten uncovered the cliches which exist in the Anglo (European)-American relationship.  Besides the embrace (Normandy or ad hoc flurries of camaraderie and a true partnership) there still exists a residue, made up of prejudice, suspicion, snobbery and pique. In reality both partners mutually mistrust as much as they like. They are more about a menage than about love.

Lately, all this came to the fore after the disastrous decision of President George W. Bush to invade Iraq.  The divergence has never healed. The United States continues to suffer the consequences of this self-inflicted major mistake while the Europeans never fully recovered their former trust in American leadership.  The chamber music approach of candidate Obama seduced Europeans for a short while, but the initial enchantment vanished as soon as the candidate became president. As much as President Bush was often seen as abrasive and unpolished, President Obama is considered weak and unpredictable.  This is unfortunate and it shouldn't be. Europe finds itself currently in very dire straits while the United States fair better. The bad atmosphere over trivial issues risk distracting from the existential ones. The Jihadist curse does not spare anyone, acting more like a universal crime syndicate than a coherent hostile "philosophical driven" grouping. It is not something that can be deposited on American or European doorsteps!   It is a common enemy!

What divides Europe and the United States is more subtle but perverse insofar as it feeds on stereotypes. Their social models collide. In the United States the social wars are still going on. In Europe a moral code rules by irrelevance, while in the United States abortion, gay rights, climate change, laicity, and end-of-life remain unsettled issues. While there is no declaration of independence more relevant than the American one, civil wars continue to be waged over causes which Europeans can only condescend to.  The level of he political discourse in the United States is often pedestrian, disconnected from the academic conversation which is highly sophisticated. Presidential candidates still discuss how gay couples can be served in restaurants, how the confederate flag should be considered, how abortion must be made a battle rather than a right...and one can go on!

Europeans fail to understand this cacophony. They see movies made in Hollywood as a trip to imbecility, forgetting that a movie can also be a commodity--like coal or platinum--and that in the end Jurassic Park will make money while Lars von Trier will not: "It's the economy, stupid!"  True American popular "culture" looks retarded, but ask how many Europeans care about the EU Parliament or are familiar with the names of the top EU Troika.  One had better get ready for a surprise. Even Ms. Christine Lagarde is more known for her scarves rather than for her skills!

Both the Europeans and Americans should take a pause. In the good old days, President Roosevelt and P.M. Winston Churchill behaved like a vaudeville duo, tricking behind each other's back. Egos were bruised but the relationship withstood the storms. Today, the couple sleeps in separate rooms and is in need of therapy, in the vein of the Nancy Astor/Churchill ferocious argument:

       Astor:  "If I were your wife, I would put poison in your coffee."
       Churchill: "Nancy, if I were your husband, I would drink it."

That is what I call a model for transatlantic marriage!

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