Since I only came to this country when I was fourteen, it stands to reason that I spent the better part of my formative years in the country of my nativity; France namely. The country which gave you the "freedom frie"*, a healthy love of ridicule and what some might contemptuously taunt as, a shallow infatuation with the sumptuous. The later, but a reverence for craftsmanship, and a refined sense of a life well achieved, and by that I do not mean, the incessant pursuit of the feckless riches which we seem to so abundantly revere in this country, but an almost obsessive love of perfection. Because a living, is better appreciated when your hands produce an object of beauty, rather than the blood they once shed over the forced labor, king and country so cruelly expropriated in salt, and tears.
It made for a land greened and rooted in craftsmanship, only to reflect the brilliance of a nation and the humanity contained within; a trait, deeply ingrained into the french psyche. In France, the artisan and the thinker are esteemed and worshiped like no other, save for Japan, may be!
As I was saying, having spent half of these first fourteen years in a Parisian suburb(the rest in a Corsican village), I never, as much as batted an eye when the French Communist party would take to the streets and chant up and down Parisian streets, or strike the country into a stand still. I saw the communists as just another stitch in the fabric of my own birth country, another voice within our politically french cacophony. Consequently, when I first came to New York’s Duchess county, the visceral McCarthyism of these here Yankees, save for a few contrarians, neither here nor there nor yonder, made for some pleasantly stupefying head scratching to this teenage creed.
What was the meaning of these North American dogmatists, these ante-bellish certainties? Communism? How could this mirrored Narcissus, to their own puritanical absolutes, could possibly have been confused for anything else but another one of man’s own self absorbed tyrannies? What was it about the American psyche which demanded a murderous end to the constraints of someone else’s philosophy?
Was it the fear of those nuclear tipped flying machines, or the intellectual fear to compete with another, less fortunate citizenry, trying to brake loose from the tyrants, real and imagined, they had been made to worship; in duchesses and counties, where land wasn’t a plenty and the natives ever so pliably sickened by a battery of ship born diseases? A continent twice the size of the known universe, ripe for the Christian taking, and so it goes, no one to argue with, except the remorse and the guilt, but nothing the confessional couldn’t fix, but not until those well meaning, god fearing Christianialists, came to realize that tilling and claiming such fertility, took more than a plow and crucifixes; it also took a people whose skin came better and more readily accustomed to working, in these sub-tropics.
Did we really, need afore mentioned intestinal rhapsody to introduce the poetic politics of Communism’s favorite opiated lyrics. Probably not, but nevertheless, this chant’s call to equality seems but a sad recall to the principles of our two mutually wounded and competing philosophies. I guess it never hurts to look back at the twentieth century, or the 16th, and remember that human dissonance makes for the inexorable furtherance and pursuit, of life, death, and the murderously brutal persuasions, of the living. Nevertheless, The International “is” a beautiful song, especially when harmonized acoustically.
Here is a link to the lyrics, so that you may sing along, in English or in French, given that, afterall, the tune itself was originally written in the French I first spoke, not the English I seconded, in Duchess county.
* It is claimed that a belgium born man, by the name of Parmentier, is to be blamed for that culinary epiphany, but who's counting?