France/USA The Lafayette Squadron

In mid-January, a few days before Trump’s inauguration, I was walking in the forests around Paris. I had done this nearly every day for weeks, trying to assimilate the utter absurdity of his election. At Marnes-la-Coquette, I came across a monument to aviators in the Lafayette squadron, American volunteer pilots who flew with the French in WWI. There was a list of names engraved— the French and American aviators who died—and an arch in creamy stone, and our two flags, French and American, sort of quietly moving in the wind. I sat near the stone arch, arms heavy, falling through layers of history, feeling the weight of the decision to elect a narcissist to make decisions about economics, education, public health.

On June 1st, Trump withdrew the US from the Paris agreement on climate change.

I couldn’t watch his speech, because I can’t stand looking at that twisted mouth emit lies anymore, but I read his statements, all misleading.

French president Emmanuel Macron’s speech was a stunning contrast~ He restates the amitié between the French and American people, and even invites Americans to come to France and work on solutions together.

Trump tweeted, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” and Bill Peduto, mayor of the ‘burgh, announced that Pittsburgh stood with Paris and the world, and it was one of the 68 American cities that would uphold the Paris agreement.

I can’t express the level of connection I have to both France and the US, nor how much it cuts that the place that seems more welcoming and inclusive right now is NOT the place I was born, where I am citizen, daughter, taxpayer.

The Lafayette Squadron was formed on April 20, 1916, and the American pilots fought in Verdun and the Somme. One hundred years later, its memorial crypt has 68 sarcophagi, one for each member of the Lafayette Flying Corps who lost their lives in WWI. Several of the stone boxes are empty; the remains were never found. There is an arch and a pool of water, those flags, and windows of stained glass.

This post I'm writing might be an attempt to create a narrative to express what it's like to live through seismic shifts in events, whereas when we read about history in books and visit memorials, the narrative is already set, in engraved text and black and white photographs. This post might be a way to ask questions like What comes next? or Where am I needed? or Where do we go from here? I'm not sure. I don't know how to "end" it. I'm letting it go.