The Statue of Liberty dominates the port of New York, another, a small replica of the first, watches over Paris, along the Seine, at the end of Île aux Cygnes. Liberty Enlightening the World, according to its original title, unites us across the ocean, a gift from the French people to their American friend to celebrate at the end of the XIXe century the centenary of the American declaration of independence.
Yet our dear old democracies falter, face periods of doubt. We feel fragile, we go through the current crises watched by overwhelm. French news – Islamist terrorism, Covid-19, economic and social difficulties – provokes deep questions about our choices and our priorities. The United States, for its part, is experiencing an accumulation of trials, violence, introspections and disillusions. The spectacle given by the exacerbated postures of Donald Trump is not there to reassure. From France, we now look at our friends across the Atlantic with amazement, and even disbelief. A stupor indeed tinged with worry: it is often said that what happens there ends up happening here; we shudder. Could we therefore in our turn experience the reign of unbridled populism, ignoring the truth of the facts or unabashedly exacerbating divisions? No, not that.
America has long been one of our models. In XXe century, during the two world wars, the Americans saved our European nations. We envied them and still cherish their conquering spirit and their taste for the great outdoors, their Nobel and their technological innovations, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, New York and San Francisco, Broadway and Russell Banks, their music and their cinema, and also … Their cheese-cakes. Even today, we want to believe that their democracy cannot fail completely. Many Americans themselves do not resign themselves moreover. With them emerges another, brighter face of America. In New York and Paris, in front of the Hudson and the Seine, statues stand upright. If we do not lose sight of “freedom enlightening the world”, we will hold out too.