Saturday, November 05, 2005

What Europeans See, What Americans Don't

A friend, just back from a six-week trek through France, writes:

I just want to tell you, if you don't already know, that in Europe, on the French, German, Italian, Spanish and even BBC nightly TV news, the war is shown in full color, bloodied horror. Sometimes American, but always Western TV reporters are showing the results of each days chaos: mothers and dads physically pulling up an arm or a leg from a pile of bloody dead bodies that still have their eyes open and look like they still might be alive .. looking for their sons and daughters, and sometimes finding them, and oftentimes it's a child, not even a warrior. This is every night, so it is easy to understand why the attitude of the French or any other people about this war is different from our espoused attitude. Our TV is completely censored, which I had suspected before this trip, but the saddest part is, it is probably censored by the news purveyors  themselves, since our news has become a commodity to be sold and to entertain, in order to get the highest ratings and best advertising rates.  Thank whatever gods may be for the internet, which is taking over the delivery of news for at least the younger set. They are the future anyway. […]

My 45 year old [son] would open up the conversation in every tea shop, restaurant, town square, or just when walking in gardens, when they would ask, are you British? with, No, we are Americans, but we are not from Texas. This was every time completely understood, and would start a long conversation, not hostile to us, more in sympathy, by the French people, no matter their station in life. It was general, from shopkeeper to wealthy shoppers on the Champs. And in the tiniest little towns, like Saintes, in the middle of nowhere. We were just amazed at how they felt about us. One nice man ended our conversation with something like: “Tout le Monde a des fous - vous n'etais pas toutes seules.” My French is not good, but you get it. But they were certainly worried about us,
about the US, because of the fact, they said, that we were such a powerful world figure, having such broad influence. I began to wonder, how can these people know every tiny thing about our government, about the goings on in Washington, when we don't hear or know a thing about their gov... or its people. Then I saw teenagers on the trains and buses coming home from school, notebooks open, filled with perfect writing, doing their homework. One day I saw what looked to be 15 year old gal taking notes from a book on Epistemology. I don't even know a teenager here who could tell me what that is. I didn't study it until 2nd year college, and then only because I was in a Jesuit school (Georgetown). And I met some former friends who told us that it is now standard for kids to start school at 3 and get their International Baccalaureates at 20... so they have 5 more years of serious school than we do in our lackadaisical school system. No wonder they can analyze and think better than we do.

[With thanks to JL]