- Is it genetic ? The scene takes place in the main hall of the
Sorbonne in Nov. 2005. I see a bill-board saying "Conseil
d'Administration = privatisation" ("Board of Directors
= Privatization") and underneath a young good-looking student
seated at a small table with the name of his organization : "CVSE
: Comité pour un Vrai Syndicalisme Etudiant" ("Committee
for a True Student Union"). I am interested and I decide
to elucidate this mysterious bill-board.
- Me (as smiley as I can) : All French universities have
a Board. What do you mean by this slogan ?
- Him (full of respect) : What do you teach ?
- Me (blushing) : Well, actually, I am a student.
- Him : .....
- Me (humbly) : please explain.
- Him : Well, it is very simple : we are against any Board in
universities because when there is a Board, it is tempted to
do things that would be different from what other universities
do and quickly, universities would become different from one
- Me : so what ?
- Him : the diplomas would no longer be national
- Me : so what ?
- Him : then they would not fit into the "Conventions Collectives"
("National Labor Contract") and people would not be
sure to be treated the same way by employers.
- Me : Are you kidding ?
- Him : No. You know how the
dirty "patrons" ("bosses") are.
- Me : Yes, I was one two months ago and I can assure you that
from a dirty-boss point of view what you say does not make any
- Him : there is another reason to be against universities having
a Board. It is very tempting for "patrons" to give
orientations to the Board.
- Me : That is true. Maybe to help students find jobs, thanks
to a well-adapted education ?
- Him : No. All they want is to destroy the university, like
they do in the United States.
- Me : .... (Did I drink too much at lunch ?)
- Him : Do you realize that in the USA there are 52 million people
with no Social Security ?
- Me : ..... (This kid looks intelligent : what is wrong with
- Him : Nice to talk to you. Come to our meetings.
- Me : Sure.
This, and many other comments I do not have the courage to report,
happened in November 2005, in a country with almost 10% unemployed,
and could have been said by thousands of other French kids with
normal IQs. Is it genetic ? If it is a dialogue between The Young
and The Old, who's The Old ?
We have a family home in Bréchamps,
a small village of 200, in a valley near Dreux, 50 miles West
In 1944, after D-Day, an American plane
crashed in the cemetery (our garden touches the wall of the cemetery!).
Here is a letter my wife wrote to the daughter of the pilot in
Ms. Sherry D., California,
Dear Sherry D.
Thank you so much for your
letter to the Mayor of Bréchamps. It was posted in English
and in its French translation, along with the photos that you
sent, at the exhibition that was held after the ceremony honoring
your father today.
The reason I am writing you
is that I am an American, who married a Frenchman whose family
purchased a home in the village of Bréchamps in 1943.
They have been there ever since--and when I married my husband
in 1973 and he brought me to Bréchamps, one of the first
stories I heard--one I was to hear many times--was that of the
American pilot who had crash landed in the village cemetery.
I was of course always intrigued
by the story and so it was with special interest that I attended
today's ceremony which was presided over by official representatives
from the French government, the village Mayor, a representative
from the American Embassy. It was a very moving ceremony, held
first inside the village church where a Mass was said, and then
outdoors in front of the Memorial to the war dead. (Bréchamps
is a tiny village of only about 200, but it had at least 10 or
more people who died in World War I. whose names are inscribed
on the Monument aux Morts.)
The Mayor spoke about the
circumstances of your father's death and the officials from the
French government underlined how grateful they were to people
like him who gave their lives. The officials stood up on the
little hillock where the Memorial is and the villagers stood
across the road from them. It was a cool, sunny day and everyone
was dressed for the occasion.After this ceremony, we all walked
to the Town Hall where the photos you sent (they had arrived
just that morning!) and your letter were posted along with an
exhibition showing Bréchamps as it was in 1944 and also
items such as records of pilots reported as "Missing in
Action" in the region. Then we walked back home where my
mother-in-law, who is 79, told us the story again: it was evening,
around 7:30, and she was at the next door neighbour's house.
All of a sudden there was a loud noise and when they looked up,
they saw a plane falling from the sky. My father-in-law for a
moment thought it was going to hit the chimney on his house--but
the plane continued on and crash landed in the cemetery two houses
Actually, it was my
mother-in-law's mother who brought the sheet in which they wrapped
up your father for burial. So you see there is a real connection
and a reason that this is more than a remote tale to me.
I can assure you that even
though I am of your generation (I am 48) that this story has
moved me very much. I was especially honored to have attended
the ceremony today which was held under the American and French
flags, and to observe the minute of silence for your father who
represented the young men who like him sacrificed their lives.
Perhaps having lived in Europe for over 20 years and having visited
the Normandy Beaches many times has made me even more aware of
how great that sacrifice was: in any case, I just wanted to write
to tell you how much it means to me to now be able to walk past
the "Monument aux Morts" and see the plaque on which
is inscribed in marble: "Weins Lloyd C. Pilote Américain
Mort pour la Liberté 23 juillet 1944" (American pilot
who died for freedom July 23, 1944).
Thank you again for your letter
which really touched everyone who read it.