Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Fine French Art of Divorcing

In this season of political hunt for the “value voters”, I wonder how American conservatives would react if a sitting U.S. president was to divorce only a few months after being elected. Any idea?

Well, this is exactly what happened in France last week and it was considered big news by the media. In fact, this was such a novelty even to the French that it overshadowed the news of the major strike (mostly in public transports). Well, of course, strikes are certainly nothing new or even unusual in France, and in this age of media frenzy for the rich and famous, it is no wonder.

The news itself is not very interesting, I will admit but it is an excellent opportunity to examine the cultural differences between our two nations. The French tend to consider much more strictly the separation between public and private spheres whereas Americans usually think one’s private life illustrates one’s values (or lack thereof).

The French are known for being soft on love affairs. That’s the theory, at least. Reality has proved different - the existence of President Francois Mitterrand's illegitimate daughter, for instance, was taboo and even journalists who knew about it kept the news secret until his funeral in 1996. Something you’d never see in America.... would you?

The way Mitterrand used illegal wiretapping under the guise of fighting terrorism was undeniably much more shocking than the news itself. So today, it is no wonder that despite the media frenzy, the French don’t seem to care.

So how would the Americans react? The L.A. Times asks it bluntly:

The Sarkozys quietly call it quits, and the French don't seem to care. Why can't Americans be so civilized?

The French example makes one wonder when Americans will begin handling the flammable mixture of sex and politics more sensibly. Many voters seem to believe that politicians who have troubled marriages are flawed people. This belief appears unshaken despite abundant ancient and latter-day evidence that happiness or lack thereof in marriage is a lousy predictor of a leader's performance. (How a politician treats underlings, old friends, rivals and campaign contributors is generally a more accurate barometer of character, though such topics don't sell tabloids.) Voters should know that anyone driven enough to succeed in modern American politics -- like anyone at the top of other workaholic, hard-driving professions -- is, by definition, highly likely to have strained his or her marriage, whether or not adultery was involved. Yet the urge to equate marital rectitude with political rectitude remains strong.

This campaign season, the front-runners for the presidential nomination in both U.S. political parties are known to have experienced major marital woes. So this would be a good year for Americans to practice the fine French art of divorcing judgments about sex from judgments about policy. Vive la tolérance. (LATimes)

Well, I must say the French media have yet to top the American press in making “blow-jobs” the center topic of every conversation in the nation.

NOTE: in case you're wondering about the headline of Libération (top left), well ,the TV show DH happens to be a major hit in France too.

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