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why I’m particularly glad to be in France today.

IMG_4507Here in France, there always seems to be one service or another that’s shutting down in protest of something.   The trains.   The buses.   The airlines.  And then every time you turn around everything is closed for some holiday you’ve never heard of, that usually has something to do with some holy person ascending to heaven.

You can say a lot of things about the French and their work ethic, their politics, their bureaucracy,  but I can honestly say, I’ve never seen their government shut down.

So let me get this straight, America…

The goddamn idiots in the House are shutting down the government over a small point in a puny bit of legislation that they spent countless hours whittling down to nothing?   On our dime?

If they were working for me, I’d fire their lazy, pompous, self-righteous, entitled asses.   Oh wait….they do work for me.   Supposedly.  Can I fire them?   At the very least, don’t Americans have the right to stop paying their goddamn salary?

I’m going to avoid blaming parties and just say that I’ve seen our elected officials on both sides of the aisle take the exact opposite positions they’re taking now, all depending on which party proposed what.   They both sicken me equally (okay, maybe right now I hate the Republicans a wee bit more).   I can’t look at any of them without getting a huge churning knot of rage in my stomach.

Today in France, stores are open, and services are running.  Medical care is about 1/10th the price it is in America.  I’m happy and relieved to be in a country where the news and politicians don’t make my blood boil. Of course, that could be because I don’t understand them.

change you can believe in

You’re looking at approximately $23 worth of change in Euros (16 Euros).   By tomorrow, it should be worth more against the dollar.

With my 16 Euros I can buy a roast chicken, loaf of bread, cheese, coffee and still have money left over for dessert.

In San Francisco, a roast chicken and bread salad at Zuni Cafe costs $49.00 (and isn’t nearly as tasty as the $7.00 roast chicken from the rotisserie truck here.

Why am I telling you this?   Because I’m pissed off.   I’m pissed off because I can’t afford to exchange all my hard-earned, increasingly worthless US dollars into Euros at the moment because of poor money management, not on my part (and believe me, I’m no financial genius), but on the part of the US government.   The government that I just paid tens of thousands of dollars to on April 15th… or else.

Thanks to their poor management and favoritism to the very rich (I’m talking to you Geithner, Bernake et al), I spent the past year slaving away 24/7 to earn money, much of which is now being spent on wars, bank bail outs, interest rates to China and corporate tax breaks.

Sure, the French will tell you their taxes are high, but it seems they’re getting some value for their money.   Their healthcare system is rated number one in the world, so they don’t live in fear of being bankrupted by illness.   Their roads are well maintained so they don’t blow out their tires on a simple drive to the grocery store (and get taxed when they’re forced to buy new tires).   They don’t work inhuman hours for an ever decreasing wage.   Public servants, teachers and people who actually produce things aren’t treated as second class citizens to be bilked by the rich and powerful.

So where’s the change (aside from the pittance in my hand), President Obama?  I understand that Bush got us into this mess, but from where I’m sitting, which is thankfully far away, things are only getting worse for the working class.

Ironically, the only way I can live the American dream these days is to be in France, where while I still can’t afford to buy a home, at least I can afford a chicken.

international political summit

My ability to discuss politics in French intelligently is seriously hampered by my inability to discuss anything in French intelligently. Up until now, I’ve pretty much limited my political ravings to blaming the Bush administration for the weather.   Obama still gets the benefit of the doubt.   I’ve been hoping that hope thing pans out.

I decide to use my next French/English session with Carole, my neighbor to discuss what’s happening on the geopolitical front.

We settle down with our drinks, pens, paper and dictionaries for a deep discussion of the world political situation… in the others’ native tongue

Carole Poletti-Blot, France

Lesley Stern, USA

Moi: Aime-tu Sarkozy?

Carole (making a face):   You no longer have Bush.   Now we have Sarkozy.   We have exchanged shames.

Moi: Ah, mais Bush est un grand, grand…shame (flipping through dictionary) HONTE.

Carole (correcting):  Bush ETAIT un grand, honte.

Moi: Etait.   Bush etait un grand, grand honte.   Huit annees de honte.   Mon Dieu!   Et Sarkozy?

Carole: He pretends…pretend? he possess the world.

Moi: He thinks he owns the world.

Carole: (repeating) He thinks he owns the world.

Moi: or   he’s an entitled asshole.

Carole:  Say this again?

Moi (simplifying): An asshole.   (trying to explain it in shitty French)…Iil est un grand ane.   Ou …le hole…qu’est ce que c’est hole… (flipping desperately through dictionary) de derriere.

Carole: Connard!   I’ll est un connard!   Un trou de cul.    Oui.

Both Carole and I scribble our newly learned words down furiously.

Moi: (repeating to self) trou de cul, trou de cul.  Connard. Connard.

Carole: (repeating to self) asshole, asshole, asshole.

Me: Oui tout les politicians …comme que dit suck?…Mauvais, mais plus mal…(thinking) .Les politicians est putains.

Carole laughs at my use of the curse word.

Carole (correcting): Sont putains.

Me: Les politicians sont putains.

Carole: The word again, please?

Moi: Suck.  All politicians suck.

Carole starts scribbling down the phrase

Carole: Please spell “suck”.

Moi: S…U….C….K.

Carole (reading what she just wrote): All politicians suck.

Moi (applauding her): Oui! Tout les politicians sont putains!

Carole (reading from her notes): Sarkozy is an asshole!

Moi: Oui! Tous les politicians sont connards!

Now that a consensus has been reached, we relax a bit, proud of all that we’ve accomplished. I certainly feel better having gotten all this off my chest and that my French partner and I have found some common ground. We move on to other pressing matters of the day.

Moi: Ou est se trouve en bon homme ici?

Carole: There is not a good man in the world.

We laugh together conspiratorially.

I think we may be on to something. This trying to speak in the others’ language without translators could be a good thing for international relations. Sure, our political conversation was a little limited. But when you get right down to it, I’m sure we resolved much more and found more common ground in an hour than the UN has in years.   Heck, maybe the US senate should try it.

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