Regular readers of The Rant know that I have been in rather a disagreeable mood towards France as of late. Yet, this morning, I saw a pair of stories so inspiring that I about stood up and sang The Marseillaise.
Now, while some readers already know this, all should know that as odd as it may sound, I have a very strong interest about what goes on in France. You see, I've got a French connection -- and something fierce too.
Tracing back the direct paternal line (my father to his father and all that), one finds that it leads to the tiny village of Dehlingen, in Alsace. Indeed, Hans Peter Koeppel, the fourth of his line (1644 - 1719), was a lay-magistrate and even the town's mayor. And since there are reportedly Kepples all around Dehlingen to this day, I maintain a fond hope that they will be liberated from the Fifth Republic's stupider ideas.
Well, we may have found a liberator.
The Telegraph reports that Sabine Herold, a 21-year-old university student, is leading a charge against the vicious public strikes that have paralyzed France as of late. Her true activism started out with demonstrations in favor of our war against Iraq; there was later a small address in front of city hall in Paris. Now, she's addressing crowds of up to 80,000 people at a time. She has also been the subject of an impressive profile in The Telegraph, written by Alice Thomson. You ought read the whole thing:
Back on Oxford Street, she wants to go to the cheapest stores. "Our Left-wing newspapers say that I must be rich not to champion the workers. They say I dress only in Hermes. But my coat is from Etam. My mother is a school teacher who refuses to strike, my father a professor. My brother is a table-tennis player. We are from a small village near Reims. We work hard but I have no family money."
Next, she wants to go to Speakers' Corner. In one corner, a Christian is ranting against sex in public lavatories; in another, a Muslim is sounding off against the Iraq war. "In France," says Sabine, "we have no freedom of expression. Being different is frowned upon. Everyone must conform. I want to give power back to individuals."
It's a fabulously inspiring story. And, in an age where we have few heroes, I daresay that Mlle Herold is well on her way to becoming one of mine.
UPDATE, 3:57 PM: Andrew Dodge est en désaccord tout à fait avec force avec mon poteau sur Mlle Sabine. Bien, chacun a droit à son avis, je supposent. Cependant, je trouve la description de Mlle Sabine comme 'fraud' tout à fait dure et injuste. Je ne sais pas le bon tour de l'expression ici, ainsi j'emprunterai cela de Graham Greene dans The Quiet American: "dites vous quand vous parlez à une dame."