By: RANDALL SMITH
A public debate has erupted after the terrorist attacks in Paris last weekend. The world condemned the incidents in which 129 people were killed, and millions of Facebook users switched their portraits to the colours of the French flag as a sign of solidarity.
Monuments and buildings were lit up throughout America with the colours — red, white and blue.
Where was the support for Beirut, Lebanon, when two suicide bombers killed more than 40 in a similar attack only days before?
Where was the support when 148 died in Garissa in April?
Where was America when a suicide bomber killed over 30 and injured 70 on Wednesday in Nigeria?
Here is an American perspective: Without France, the United States would have likely been a British subject for perhaps 200 years or more.
Our northern neighbour, Canada, was given the right to rule independently in 1867 by England and full independence in 1982.
America would likely be a minor player on the world stage if it had rejected independence.
In 1776, the American war was going poorly.
After pitching the British out of Boston by outflanking them with canons and soldiers, George Washington led the American forces to New York for a decisive battle.
As Washington sat in his New York City headquarters, though, the British began sending ships filled with soldiers.
At one point, observers said there were nearly 400 British naval vessels in the New York harbour with thousands of soldiers.
The British outmanoeuvred Washington in battle after battle, and the American general only escaped by navigating a river in the middle of the night.
His soldiers were constantly sick with everything from typhoid to dysentery to smallpox.
And Washington was losing a large part of its army to desertion — to the British and to their homes, when the planting season beckoned.
The Americans were ill-trained, poorly armed and most had not seen war or served in an army.
The British took New York and New Jersey while Americans Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson worked to convince the French to join the battle on the American side.
To finance the war, Adams struck dozens of deals with the Dutch in Amsterdam.
France entered the war 1778, after the Americans captured a portion of the British army.
The French disliked the British and spent immense sums on the war effort, but gained little but revenge in the end.
Ten years later, France was involved in its own revolution, and some speculate the debt of the American war was a small part of the catalyst.
Almost 100 years later, France gave the Statue of Liberty to America, the giant female figure that lights New York’s harbour and is an everlasting symbol of friendship between the two countries.
Like most relationships, there have been difficulties.
Most recently, American conservatives have made fun of the French.
Jeb Bush, for example, mocked the French work week in a televised Republican presidential debate.
Others said America’s French fries should be renamed freedom fries.
But the relationship remains extraordinarily friendly.
Twice, American involvement in world wars saved France from German occupation.
More recently, the two countries have been working closely against terrorism.
Lots of speculation has been given to Americans dismissing Africans and those from the Middle East.
There may be some truth to that among some circles of Americans, but there is little overall truth.
The simple fact is there is a deep and abiding friendship that has lasted more than 200 years between France and America. Any other argument denies history.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION