Monday, March 12, 2007

Jacques, We Hardly Knew Ye -

French President Jacques Chirac has just announced he will not be seeking a third mandate as France’s Head Honcho thus turning an important page of the country’s history.

I remember falling for Chirac as I had previously fallen for predecessors Valéry Giscard D’Estaing and François Mitterrand. Jacques Chirac, a stylish and smart debonair brought flair and a manly elegance to l’Élysée – charming to me and annoying to many, I realize.

For me, President Chirac is symbolic with overture. He finally build a bridge between France and its ex-African colonies, not by erasing the many years of gross pillage but by creating the possibility of a new kind of bilateralism and dialogue between the two Continents. His efforts to recognize the ravages of both racism and anti-Semitism and equal efforts to erase these increasing plagues were refreshing in the face of a Europe growing more and more intolerant. Chirac also wasn’t afraid to stand up to bullies (Hello W. Are you listening?) in the eve of the invasion of Iraq. Today, after countless deaths and no real clear withdrawal plan, Chirac’s position can be graded not only as morally right and brave, it was and remains today, simply smart.

Any failures? Of course. For starters, France’s inability to welcome and integrate immigrants to its Society has stained the country. But despite this crippling failure and the others during his Presidency, I believe in a short time, we will miss Chirac`s diplomacy and his openness to the Arts, Cultures and Differences. At the eve of an election where 10% of the votes are said to go to scum-of-the-year Jean-Marie Le Pen and another hefty percentage going to the sometime-very-much-intolerant Nicolas Sarkozy, France (and the rest of us) should re-examine the obsession one has with the newer and shiner as it is not always the brightest.

As I hold my breath waiting to see who will fill Chirac’s well-polished designer shoes, I also impatiently wait for what I know will be his juicy page-turning memoirs.

Au revoir, Jacques.

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