A Tale of Two Countries: The Absurdity of the Notre Dame Backlash
In the race to see which country not only founded the modern ideal of democracy, but has also been the best guardian of it, my team is losing.
On Monday, the French showed us just how easy it is to raise enormous amounts of money to help others, almost instantaneously, if your entire nation is determined to come together to do the right thing. And we hated them for it.
Ground was broken on the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1163 and it was opened to the public in 1345. The nearly 900-year-old church remains one of the best and most beautiful examples of intact Gothic architecture still standing.
It tells the story of France, the French, religious art, and European culture in a country that has been guilty of a sad amount of iconoclasm in the past. It’s also been the subject of countless books and at least one Disney movie. This a long-winded way of saying it’s important, and as a French historian, it’s more important to me than the average person.
On Monday, the church caught fire at 18:50 CEST. The fire destroyed the roof and the ancient spire is no more. Other favorite elements of the historic church, however, like the rose windows, were saved. As the fire raged most of the day, Parisians had no dearth of sympathy. People all over the world reached out to the them. Trump even offered (a rejected) suggestion on how to put the fire out. America’s sympathy for the country which gave us the Statue of Liberty lasted all day; in fact, it lasted right up until the French did something we’ve forgotten how to do: the right thing.
Let’s rewind a little bit. When it comes to liberty, it’s hard to know which country influenced the other the most. Our founding fathers spent plenty of time in an agitated France both before and after our own revolution, reading and discussing freedom and justice. Thomas Jefferson refined many of his opinions based on French philosophers such as Rousseau and Voltaire, while the ill-fated Robespierre was a fan of Thomas Paine. Our revolution was first, more successful, and less bloody, while theirs was the most…