Over the past few weeks, as word of my upcoming visit to Paris has spread, I have encountered two versions of incredulity that I might actually intend to visit France. The first version is related to fear, as if I might somehow be attacked, ambushed, or otherwise assaulted in some way because I hail from the United States and that the country is somehow dangerous as a result. The second aspect is anger that I might be willing to spend time in a place that dared oppose the mighty will of the US. I actually find myself appalled at both reactions.
I have repeatedly searched for any news of a rise in anti-American violence in newspapers, particularly in the city of Paris. Despite my daily monitoring of the news, I haven’t found anything, and certainly nothing with which I find myself alarmed. For the record, many Canadians I met aren’t exactly pleased with the United States either, and I certainly returned from there, twice, without any scratches. While France may be experiencing a bit of an identity crisis as a result of NATO/EU integration and enlargement, I may not sure I have much to fear.
The second complaint I receive is that I should not visit because France dared speak out against America’s foreign policy. That we could not muster a vote in the UN on Iraq as a result of their diplomatic efforts hardly strikes me as a reason to be upset; any support I personally have for the invasion of Iraq remains tepid at best. To penalize any country for failing to agree with us on an issue such as this strikes me as folly (not that that’s stopping the Bush Administration!). That people would find France’s behavior reprehensible strikes me as being hypocritical in some fashion. Wasn’t it the US who was trying to buy off Turkey for $30 billion with the right to invade Iraqi Kurdistan?
France has always been on my A-List of countries to visit, and I’m giddy to finally have an opportunity to make the trip. Truth be told, I’m far more nervous about Costa Rica, since it is less developed, with more diseases (Malaria, yikes!), and a less adequate health care system. But I suppose my approach is too practical for most people.