Nationalism and Dining French

A lot of people let jet lag interfere with enjoying the first few days of any trans oceanic flight. Even a transatlantic flight. For me, landing in Nice at noon (3am California time), I committed to myself to resist the temptation of a mid-afternoon South of France nap. So I decided to start my day with a light lunch and a glass of red wine then a long walk through the alleys and backroads of Nice. The morning market was all but packed up save a lone merchant whose was still displaying fresh yet unsold fish resting on crushed ice. Cool colors and eyes staring blankly. Ahhh. The Mediterranean.

Passion is a good thing. Passion for art, music, food, reading, writing, blogging, stamp collecting or whatever. Yet when some cannot identify or find their passion they direct their attention unimaginatively and blindly to something easy, popular or otherwise accessible. Things like sports, television, or other icons of pop culture. Many times its attached to something parochial like an alma mater, region or wider like nationalism.

Nationalism. I think it's good to be proud of your country or heritage. And in a way this is perfectly normal. That is, until it's obsessive. I find in the shadow of ignorance flag waving an fist stomping about a politician, political party or your country utterly boring and stupid. Cheering for the USA is a great thing except when its done with ill regard for understanding bigger and wider cultural and geographical diversity.

So when we conversed with the table next to us at dinner the other night I found it fun and amusing that we spent the better part of our desert course in a funny and often heated conversation with two French national couples. Even funnier was the fact that they spoke exactly NO English and we barely could communicate in kitchen French. But armed with my French phrase book, a good attitude, smiles and a couple glasses of wine somehow we engaged in a fun and somewhat interesting conversation.

When we told the two French couples we were from America the oldest gentlemen laughed a little then jibed the guy sitting next to him, smirked and mumbled Chirac and a bunch of French I couldn't distinguish. The next word that rang clear among the gibberish French was Bush. I laughed and told them I wasn't Bush. True, I think they could see that, but I wanted to make sure. Then the younger gentlemen laughing explained that Bush was Pinocchio as he used his hands to mime and gesture his nose growing. The table chuckled.

As the profiteroles arrived I asked the older man if he'd ever been to the United States.

“France!” he said confidently as his voice raised.

“Australia?” I asked.


“How about African?” My inquiries scanned the globe. “England?”

“France!” his hands clenched in a fist which he raised and as he dropped his arm down his elbow banged on the table. “France. France. France!”

I asked him, “You really like France, don't you?”

He muttered a few indecipherable words until three letters I recognized, “C.i.A.?” His wife turned to me, “CIA?”

“Possible.” I assured them.

The man was so infatuated by his own country. His culture. That he couldn't see beyond France. Fanaticism no matter religion, politics or sporting teams resulting in blinding ignorance is unhealthy and unattractive. But attitudes such as my new friend the Frenchman pervade the globe. Territorial, parochial and xenophobic attitudes result in protectionism, isolationism and even terrorism. I'm not alone when I say I hate this stuff. Our french dining neighbors were innocent enough but what is worrisome are those extremists with malicious intent. Ouch.

Photos: (1) View from the highest point in Nice of the French Riveria city of Nice (2) Winter crowds on the Riveriera are far away; two lone chairs await activity on the beach in Nice. (3) Street clock in Downtown Nice, France. (4) Roman Ruins in St. Rafael, France of an aqueduct. Nearby are a romain theatre and collisueum.