Friday, May 31, 2013

Remembering War

Top: National cemetery at Sillery
Bottom: Shrapnel holes in the Palais de Justice, Rouen

Every village has a war monument. Shrapnel and bullet holes scar façades in most of the towns in the northern half of the country. Unlike the World War (both I and II) veterans with direct experience of the conflicts from the United States who were adults, if sometimes young adults, at the time, here in France there are two generations still living who have visceral memories of bombings and armies and deportations. Streets, buildings, and even parking lots are named after important dates of victories, defeats, surrenders, heroes, martyrs. And that's only going back a century, in this country built on the bones of two thousand years of battles. It's no wonder the French have such a fiercely protective attitude towards patrimoine. And yet for all that the national guards in the airports and museums carry machine guns, it's a fairly pacifist country, at least in my experience, even with the recent protests over gay marriage. I hope it stays that way.

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