Monday, November 3, 2008

Obamania has swept France...

Obama is adored by about 80 percent of French people, but I haven't met any of those 20 percent who would rather see McCain get elected. Friday night, if you were able to read my FB, you noticed that I was going to be participating in a debate at the City Hall of Herouville, a suburb of Caen. I got an official email from the mayor's office and everything! I had trouble finding the actual Hotel de Ville because it was hidden amongst a circle of buildings.

When I did finally make it into the City Hall, I was greeted by 3 ppl who only spoke French and one American who was fluent in French who helped me out. I had no idea he was an American at first because his French was perfect! It turns out that Thomas from L.A. has been living and working here for 14 years. He was going to be debating for Obama, which, as it turns out, everyone else was doing, too. Unbeknownst to me, I would be the only McCain supporter in the entire building.

Before the debate started, we met the mayor and went into his personal office to have a radio interview with some blond reporter. That was absolutely terrible because I didn't understand anything and my French came out in spurts. The mayor was really nice, though, and said my French was very good for only having studied the language for a year. I certainly didn't think it was anything to be proud of lol. The mayor was dressed very spiffy in a brown corduroy suit with matching tie and appeared to be about 40 and graying early. He was awesome to talk with, especially since he tried using English sometimes. Most of the time it came out very well, but his first attempt at English was rather amusing. Instead of inviting us to sit down, he merely yelled "SIT DOWN!" Apparently my facial expression was one of being taken aback, and he laughed and repeated in a much smoother voice, "I mean, sit down...please!" smiling as he said it. We all laughed and talked about American politics and university life for about 20 minutes and then went to the debate.

When I got in there, with the exception of the few American students who showed up for about 30 minutes, I was the youngest in the room by at least 15 years. I was most certainly the youngest who was actually debating. My first task was to paint a picture of who McCain was and what he stood for, since most of the ppl in the room only knew what Obama stood for, and even then they didn't really know the grand lignes of his campaign. So, I explained that he was a senator from Arizona who got into politics after being a POW in Vietnam. I gave a few of his ideas on health care and economic reforms and such, but it was very difficult to do in French. I told them at the beginning to bear with me because I didn't know very much but that I was trying. They seemed appreciative, but apparently one lady didn't think anyone was comprehending what I was saying and came to translate for me. I was grateful but also kind of hurt because Thomas has sat next to me so that he could translate for me, and he had given no indication that my French was not being understood.

Some of the highlights of the debate: a guy who couldn't have been younger than 75 said he was glad I was so respectful of veterans and of the POW situation, esp. since I was such a little girl when it happened, but wanted to know what else was good about McCain besides personality. He wanted facts. I didn't have the heart to tell him I wasn't even thought of when McCain was a POW lol. I told him that I thought his military experience would carry him far and that it was very important seeing as we have so many troops overseas right now. Another guy later, who seemed very angry with me as though I were McCain himself, asked how I could possibly paint McCain as being a moderate. I had to remember that to the French, Democrats are moderates and Republicans are as far right as they get, no matter how moderate that Republican may be. I told him that McCain was a very moderate Republican because of his views on gay rights and abortion, and the fact that he was willing to take flack from his party and vote against them because he didn't agree with them. The number one highlight, and not a good one at that, was when I was trying to explain that America was founded a lot of things; one of them being that if you work hard, you will be rewarded. We have a strong work ethic in America, especially compared to the French, who get 5 weeks paid vacation every year!! I explained that Republicans believe we should not share the wealth. We have organizations like Medicare and Medicaid to help out the elderly, poor, or people who can't work, but it is not our job to watch over them, which translated to "babysitting" in French apparently. They did not like that at all; a huge gasp went around the room. That's not what I meant, and I grimaced, but Thomas told me there was no real way to explain this concept of strong capitalism to a country who has had socialized healthcare since before they can remember.

All in all, I thought the debate was a total disaster lol. I was so unbelievably nervous, and it was excruciatingly hard to express my ideas in a different language. The people on the committee of the debate and a French guy who is a part of Obama's campaign in France (his name is Archippe) however said that I was very brave to sit in front of about 100 ppl and express my opinions and beliefs which directly contrasted with those of everyone in the room. "You are so young and so small, but you are strong!" were the words I heard over and over as we talked about the debate and American politics over dinner. I told them that if that didn't jumpstart my political career, I don't think anything will.

One of the funniest things of the night, though, was the mention of Chuck Norris. Yes, the French ppl know who Chuck Norris is. He was mentioned because I had told them that I wasn't really fond of McCain; I had originally wanted Mike Huckabee. Archippe knew that Chuck Norris had endorsed him and was travelling with him. Without thinking, I was like, "Oh yeah, Chuck came to my school and he goes to my church," as though this was no big deal. Wrong. The entire table shrieked and started freaking out about how I "knew" Chuck Norris. Immediately the Chuck Norris jokes came. Oh yes, the French know all about the jokes. I was rolling with laughter as one by one I heard the most famous ones in French (and actually understood them). I even piped in and said one of my favorites in French and they started laughing harder. It was a great ending to a nervewracking night.

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