1. STATEMENT OF INTENT
OK, change of pace here. How about May and June in not-Trump land? (Well, the jury is still out on Fwonce. We’ll know more on May 7.) How about a brief, ground-level look at France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia?
Mike has been writing about economics in the U.S., as is appropriate, but Le Pen’s ascendance in France suggests that maybe, just maybe, we do live in a global village, that we humans do share economic and other interests, that the homelands from which many of our ancestors emigrated can teach us something about us. At the very least, this look at other cultures may reduce the insular bias of our perspectives and perhaps illuminate the burgeoning and, to many of us, disturbing America-First ethos.
Although this journey will undoubtedly involve encounters with more than a few Americans — It appears that Rick Steves has created American crowds even on the goat paths of Cinque Terre — it will at least be at the level of hostels and Airbnbs, not four-star hotels. My commentary will not purport to reveal any hidden truths, but to try to discern the temper of a small slice of the population living in ten of the twenty-eight (twenty-seven after Brexit) nations in the European Union. Plus Switzerland and Norway.
And although I intend to record details about the costs of food, lodging and transportation, my notes will not only consist of dry data. For example, Mike has assured me that the most nubile and enthusiastic young Swedish women celebrate the days around Midsummer’s Eve — this year June 23, although the solstice is June 21, and the event is now celebrated by the Swedes from June 20 – 25 — by frolicking naked under the midnight sun. Mike never intentionally misleads me, but I intend to verify this behavior personally nevertheless. If my wife lets me, of course.
So this will be a kind of travel blog for a couple of months, although I won’t be able to resist cultural commentary. I’ll be in Angers, France, with generally younger people — Duh. I’m 73. — on May 7 when Marine Le Pen, a kind of Trump-ette with less-lovely hair and even more overt fascism, goes against Emmanuel Macron, maybe sorta like Hillary, at least in his wider view of the world, for the presidency of la belle France. Serious economic implications here for Europe and probably for the U.S. because Le Pen wants France out of the EU, but I’ll be more interested in how the homme (et femme) on the street reacts. And if the trains continue to run roughly on time.
I plan to offer observations and insights every few days, although the rigors of travel on a series of trains and boats and planes may have an effect on that resolution. So. I’ll number these posts and we’ll see how it goes — my discipline as well as your interest.
Skip Christensen. 28 April 2017