E-Mailing Through Europe >> Paris August 14, 1998

La Gloire de la Guerre

Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 11:12:47 -0700 (PDT)
From: k p
Subject: Ole, Ole, Ole! part 1

Un homme de Guerre  

Well, I decided to postpone Munich for 2 days in order to see a Paris-St. Germain Futbol match with 5 other internationals from the hostel. Futbol really seems to be the international language of young men across the world. We spoke about the World Cup for a good 2 hours yesterday evening before we realized all the women had wandered off.

My last dispatch left off with the intrepid traveller on my way to the Le Musée de l'Armée to visit with the Empereur Napoleon and see the result of the last 2,000 years of men figuring out better ways to kill each other.

From my journal:

"I'm sitting in Le Musée de l'Armée looking at a spectacular collection of armour. I always forget how much I love to look at this stuff and listen closely to hear the ring of a sword as it's pulled from the scabbard, then with a curse or a "God Save the King!" the two knight's swords clang together until the stronger or more skilled stands victoriously over the bloodied loser.

I, of course, would be on the bottom of the pile."

The exhibit continued with an impressive collection of uniforms, swords, swords-into-pistols, pistols, pistols-into-muskets, muskets into rifles, horses into cars, cars into tanks, rifles into machine guns...and and so on right through WWII. It's interesting to realize how long it took America to get into both WWI and WWII. There were years of fighting on the continent before we got involved, usually resulting in the death of thousands or millions of Frenchmen. This exhibit provided quite a different perspective on the two wars.

First a bit in both rooms about the troubles that caused Germany to invade (funny how history repeats itself), then onto the trenches and gas in WWI and Blitkreig in WWII. Once the exhibits got to American soldiers and generals, however, they only showed the US kicking Germany's ass. There never was a picture or a caption or an exhibit (as far as I can tell, since they were all in French) demeaning the efforts of the Americans. We were portrayed very heroically. Better late than never, I guess.

The Germans were always made to look evil, and the British seemed to be portrayed as foppish, but I can't be entirely sure of that. The Vichy government in WWII was pretty much covered by photos of their mug shots, which leads the viewer to realize what the French army things of les collaberateurs. The Resistance was portrayed as dashing, goodlooking young men and women who gave their lives for La Glorie De La France!" Click HERE for La Marseille -->

2 side notes:

The latest advancement in armor: easy access for peeing with "No Rust" technology  

1. Two of the suits of armor had a metal cod piece attached to the front with little quick release screws to allow the knights to go pee.

2. In sharp and sobering contrast to the general glorification of war and the objets du guerre, the Musee and Napolean's Tomb are attached to the Hopital Des Invalides, where surviving French solders can live out their lives after giving their souls, or various body parts, to the cause. The reality of war really hit home seeing these old, sad, mute Frenchmen in wheelchairs with limbs missing puttering around the grounds. They just sat there quietly, staring vacantly in the hot sun at the tourists coming by to see the glorification of a spectacle that cost them their limbs or a life of nightmares and dashed hopes of what might have been.

I thought about that a lot as I walked from the Musee back to the hostel. Then I ordered a beer and forgot all about them. I hung out again in the courtyard until a group of us embarked on an unsuccessful attempt to go play football on the grass surrounding the Eiffel Tower We wandering the streets of Paris, a gang of international hostlers speaking different languages as nobody paid attention to where we were going. Then, to bed.

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