The national anthem of France, La Marseillaise, is many things. Nationalistic in spades. But then it is a national anthem. Militaristic. Well it was written in the 1700’s as a call to arms, so yes it is that as well. Beautifully stirring? Well even to this American I would agree. But racist? Not in the least. Although for the past few days the argument has raged as the subject has trended on Twitter, #lamarseillaise.
The latest dust-up began when Justice Minister Christiane Taubira was criticized by Geoffory Boulard for not singing along during the playing of the national anthem at a commemoration of the abolition of slavery. Boulard’s Tweet called for resignation not believing she wasn’t singing because she didn’t know the words. Taubira enlarged the Twitterfude by responding, “some occasions are more suitable for contemplation… than stage karaoke.”
Lambert Wilson, a French actor of note weighed in calling the anthem, ..”terrible, bloody, racist and xenophobic”, calling for the lyrics to be changed. One stanza he would be referring to says,
“To arms citizens
Form you battalions
Let impure blood
Water our furrows”
Certainly understandable if a pacifist objected to killing, even if it is the enemy who is being targeted. But to come to the conclusion that calling for victory by killing the enemy (impure blood being the enemy from Prussia and Austria) is racist, seems to be going way out-of-the-way to be insulted. But so many of us today seem to be happiest when we can imagine being slighted in some way.
La Marseillaise is a European March style of anthem, which is characterized by speaking of war. It first became the national anthem in 1795, lost its title under Napoleon I and was banned by Louis XVIII and Charles X. In 1879 it was restored as the French national anthem.
In finding the version of La Marseillaise that I have linked to at the top I also learned of the artist singing the anthem. Mireille Mathieu is a wonderful French singer and even if you prefer Freedom Fries to French Fries, I would highly encourage to take a look at her in concert on this YouTube video. Listening to this talented woman sing was worth the anguish of hearing of more petty squabbling over insults, real or imagined.