Chère France,

Chère CharlieIt’s been a long time. Thirty years since we began this relationship; more than twenty since I decided to call you home. Since I married in Paris, gave birth in Lyon, made friends, built a life, put down roots.

In all these years, I’ve never felt moved to share my feelings about what it is to be French. Until now.

I have often criticized you, and rightly so. It has not always been easy to live here, to decode your culture, understand your language and fully appreciate your history. There have been moments of mutual incomprehension. Sometimes I felt alone. But I never felt judged, nor excluded.

Never once did you ask about my religion or political beliefs. You gave my children an education that has enabled them to go forth in the world as free-thinking, critical spirits. You kept us healthy and safe.

So this is to say merci, dear France. Thank you for your irreverence. For refusing to be kept down. Merci for resisting the thought police, refusing the politically correct. For having the courage to face down fear. For supporting even those you don’t agree with in their right to free speech. Like the beloved cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo. Like me.



P.S. I don’t agree with all of the choices made by editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo. Nor do I consider this humble blog to be comparable to the work of those brilliant satirists. But I do believe in freedom of expression. What about you?


  1. davidprosser · January 13, 2015

    I do believe in freedom of expression provided it isn’t intended to incite hatred or violence which is happening too often with people shouting Burn in Hell Poic onthe streets. Every time Mme le Pen opens her mouth I wonder if another mosque will be destroyed or a synogogue.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · January 13, 2015

      Oh, you are so right! The backlash is an unfortunate but sadly expected consequence of recent events. Still, the solidarity is a silver lining. Biggest bises! xxx

  2. David · January 13, 2015

    To me, there is no such thing as “hate speech”, only speech. Some is good, and some is bad. How do you confront bad speech? You do it with more speech. In the marketplace of ideas, good ideas drown out bad ideas.

    I feel the same way about “hate crime”. To me, there is no such thing as “hate crime”, there is only crime. Disliking someone for what they represent may be stupid, but that alone is not a crime. Assaulting, threatening, robbing, or murdering them for what they represent is already a crime. We don’t need new, unenforceable laws to redefine crimes that are already on the books.

    I say, let the idiots in our society self-identify. It makes them easier to find and to challenge. Better that they be out in the open then hiding behind rocks.

    You don’t incite with ideas, you incite with actions. Counselling someone to commit a crime is already a crime. Nothing new needed here either.

    • MELewis · January 13, 2015

      I agree, and only wish the laws in France truly reflected this position. It is unfortunate that those who are deemed to ‘faire l’apologie’ (make excuses for) hate crime or terrorism can be punished by law, while we defend to the death the right of the satirical cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo to exercise freedom of speech. We need to censor actions, not thoughts, and certainly not words. Thanks for speaking up! 😉

      • BigLizzy · January 13, 2015

        David and Mel, I couldn’t agree more. This is a great post, honey. So touching.

        What we need to do is stop expecting other people to change their behavior to make us feel better. That is a trap for both sides. So, expecting other people to not use hate speech is a trap from which we will never emerge. Why? Because other people are not here to do our bidding or make us happy. That is our work. The separation is, as you so eloquently pointed out, Mel, ACTION.

        There is no such thing as hate speech unless you decide that there is. And, while I don’t like it, who cares? Leave people alone to be in their particular hatred, if that’s where they need to be. It only affects them. We don’t have to let it affect us. When did we all become so spineless that people can’t hate or express it or feel it or want it? We all hate things. We all feel. We all act based on emotions and programming. Is that right or wrong? It doesn’t matter. It IS. It is the human condition.

        If someone hates other people because of whatever reason, I don’t have to use their hatred as my excuse not to be happy or not to be in my power or not taking responsibility for my thoughts and actions. I don’t have to let other people’s expression bother me. It is a choice. Choice that we all have regardless of circumstances.

        If we expect our husbands, our wives, our kids, our relatives, our extended human population to control their expression so that we will feel better, we will be waiting FOREVER. It will never happen. It is OUR JOB to make ourselves feel better regardless of how others vent, express, act, etc.

        Does this mean that we don’t get upset? NO. Does this mean that we LIKE what other people do or say, NO. But, the journey is within. The WORK is within. We need to grow the eff up and take ownership of our lives that, by the way, we actively create through our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Until mankind does this routinely and stops blaming circumstances, other people, the various economies, or whatever for their troubles, we will never, ever, ever know peace. We will never be happy. We are a mess. But, ultimately, I feel like humanity is going to get this, eventually. ❤

      • MELewis · January 14, 2015

        Many thanks for your thoughtful words, chère Lizzy. You are right – as individuals, we have to manage our own expectations to go forth and be happy. Easier said than done, for me at least. Still working on it, each and every day! Sounds like you’ve been giving this a great deal of thought, and can only wish your message reaches so many of the lost lambs in this f-d up world! Big bises xx

  3. Multifarious meanderings · January 13, 2015

    Free speech is critical to the development of any society – everything can be criticized, and everyone should have the right to do so without being gunned down by fanatics. Satirical magazines have been around in France since the 19th century and have a role to play. I’m interested to see that the definition of free speech seems to vary – many people only seem to accept opinions that aren’t opposed to their own. In that case, we won’t get very far… Hugs to you from the Hérault xx

    • MELewis · January 14, 2015

      Can only agree – free speech as a principle cannot be selective based on whether we agree with the message. Granted, sometimes it’s a fine line between speech and acts…but hopefully that’s where the ‘intelligence’ comes in. Thanks for your thoughts, MM! 🙂

      • Multifarious meanderings · January 14, 2015

        I’m scribing my own post about this one. Will post one I am armed with a pencil-proof vest. 😀

  4. jackiemallon · January 14, 2015

    Without free speech, we’re doomed. I’m sure you, as an adopted Francaise, are feeling the weight of these very confusing times–as indeed we all are. Wishing you peace and serenity. xo

    • MELewis · January 14, 2015

      Indeed, it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride so far this year. But I am heartened to hear that so many of us share free speech as a transcending value. Merci for your kind wishes!

  5. Maison Bentley Style · January 14, 2015

    I keep coming back to the Voltaire quote..I may hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.. xxx

  6. Anne · January 14, 2015

    Merci pour ce beau billet plein de justesse qui m’a beaucoup touchée.

    • MELewis · January 15, 2015

      Merci, Anne. Les compliments d’une lectrice française me touchent aussi….

  7. Leana Delle · January 15, 2015

    Agree with it, embrace it and celebrate it. I love France, and I love this post. Thanks, Mel. Hugs!

    • MELewis · January 15, 2015

      Thanks so much, Leanne! Means a lot coming from a fellow Canadian – along with the reblog! 🙂

  8. Leana Delle · January 15, 2015

    Reblogged this on LEANA DELLE'S BLOG and commented:
    I don’t follow many blogs, primarily because I have little time to read them, but I do read this one. A fellow Canadian who makes France her home:

  9. Osyth · January 16, 2015

    You know one of the major reasons I chose France was freedom of speech … the ability to allow folk to BE what they are. I come from a country that also has a proud heritage of satire and lambasting though I rather fear it is being summarily throttled and that was in the mix when I moved. I got here and I have been delighted to ‘meet’ some great bloggers. You, lady are high amongst them and this piece is the proof of the pudding as we say back in not necessarily always Great Britain from whence I have returned today after a 4 week break which explains my tardy response. I say again be proud – you are a great writer and this is a great piece. Thank you.

    • MELewis · January 17, 2015

      Wow, dear Osyth….I am blushing! High praise indeed from a fellow blogger and writer whose work I admire. As for ‘Great’ Britain – home of so many masters of satire – I fear the cult of the politically correct rules the day. Yet I feel so close to that culture and am sometimes torn between sensibilities that still feel rather ‘English’ and my more recent French influences. Anyway, glad to have you back in the land of the Gauls!

  10. Mélanie · January 20, 2015

    @”So this is to say merci, dear France…” – thanx-merci, Mél! ❤ France has been my homeland for 35 years, I've lived here longer than in my native country, so I love France à la vie, à la mort…

    • MELewis · January 21, 2015

      So that’s why your French is so letter perfect! Joan Baez, c’est la classe….a free thinker extraordinaire. Thanks for sharing! Bises xx

  11. Pingback: Enfant terrible – FranceSays

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