"I love them people"

Update the afternoon of July 10: see bottom of this post

Some Americans don't deserve to live in a world where there's a France.

First it was French wines. Then French fries. Now it's French exchange students who are getting the cold shoulder from American families still smarting over France's opposition to the war in Iraq.
Only half of the 250 teenagers who signed up this year with one well-established summer program have been placed with American families.
The first wave began arriving on Monday, and unless homes can be found quickly, four Boston-bound teenagers in that group will get refunds instead of trips. At least 100 participants in the program who expected to come in August are also in limbo.

. . . .

"This has been a horrible year," said Deborah Bertrand, the New York area manager for Loisirs Culturels à L'Étranger, a not-for-profit exchange program based in Paris. "Usually I have no problem finding host families. The only thing I can attribute it to is the anti-French feeling going on because of the Iraq war. My coordinators all up and down the East Coast are having the same problem."

One R.I. recruiter reports her frustration.
"This year, with everything that happened with the war, people locally have just taken it personally. When I ask them, 'Would you open your home to a French teenager?' they look at me like, 'Are you out of your mind? Why would we, when they've been so ungiving to us?'"
Meanwhile, some Americans really do take the French "personally," and have done so most of their lives. An American B-17 tail gunner was hidden from the Germans after he parachuted into a tiny French village as his plane went down in flames on the 4th of July in 1943. David Butcher remembers the French. He couldn't make it to the celebrations this week, but the sister of one of his crew mates who died that day was there.
In a conversation late on Friday, she told him what he had missed, saving the best for last.

"Dave," she said, "they renamed the street by the monument `Route of the Flying Fortress.' "

As for French-American tensions generated recently by the Iraq war, speakers seemed to echo the sentiment expressed by Mr. Butcher when he said, "I love them people."

Mayor Ploncard's assessment was perhaps the most elegantly put: "Despite our governments' divergent ideas, the French remember with gratitude that it is to the Americans that we owe our freedom."

I'm going to take Bastille Day "personally" myself this year, and with more gusto/l'entrain than usual. Gotta make up for what's being lost by Americans elsewhere.

How can we send those French kids home?


The update on the French teenagers: I've found the American LEC website, and I've been told that as a result of the news article all New York-area students have now been placed for this year. There is still a need for homes in the D.C. area however. Would I be reading too much into that report if I thought it might say something about the difference between Gotham and our other Capital city, at least these days?

These are two of the teenagers who applied for the program this year, Marie and Julien. The images are from the LEC site.