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Howell Hurst Defining Trump, Europe, Nature, People, People Politics


Nice, France . . .

October 7, 2021

The beach at Nice is comprised of small rocks, not sand. It is conducive to cautious thinking. If you are barefoot, the rocks hurt. If you’ve got clogs on, they produce unsteady walking. It’s sort of like the French personality.

They are a quite austere bunch, I’ve discovered, even here on the southern coast facing the Mediterranean. They don’t quickly share eye contact with you like Americans so easily do. Women particularly seem to carefully avoid eye contact. At least they do with this man.

I must admit that I am a persistent observer of the scene around me as I meander through life. It’s a writer’s habit. If you don’t keep your eyes open for all that’s going on about you, how can you possibly begin to try to describe, let alone understand, it?

It may be that the ladies sense my curious eye is seeking them out. That too is a lifelong habit of mine. A bachelor’s way of life, perhaps. I simply find women very interesting creatures. I always have. I early on decided they are much more intriguing than men.

Men can be such crude dullards. But, back to the French. They are far more internal than we Americans. They don’t upon meeting one another start sharing their life stories. Those are much more private to the French.

They speak cautiously. Select their words with care. They appear to watch you and listen to you and let you reveal yourself to them before they open any doors to their thoughts, not to mention their souls. Our New Englanders are somewhat like them.

The French, all Europeans of course, share a singular common experience. They all lived through two official world wars, following centuries of tribal fighting and religious warfare exploitation. So, trusting one another is not an automatic impulse for them.

We Americans tend to lean into the idea that the other fellow you just met is likely innocent until he proves himself to be guilty. The European isn’t openly aggressive about it but does display a far more skeptical attitude. Guilty until proven innocent is more like it.

It is said that the Nicoise are suspicious of strangers. They are, indeed, I believe, of Americans. I get the distinct feeling that they do not trust us nowadays. I did not get that feeling in the 60’s when I served in the Army in Europe. They seemed to like us then.

I believe Mr. Trump has contributed to this attitude. Except for the right-leaning new politicians of Europe, I do not find the common man or woman is fond of Mr. T. They find him obnoxious.

The French are quite sticklers for politeness and a rather formal daily protocol. Above all, they appreciate and practice good manners. They say “please” a lot. “S’il vous plait” precedes most any statement. It’s just the way they are by nature.

French political activists are the exception. Their entire acceptable style is to rampage in the street. But even then, they do it with restraint. Remember, they don’t all own guns with giant calibers and massive bullet containers.

That fact helps temper their tempers. They are far more delicate with one another than we fumbling Americans in the street can be. However, I may be a bit influenced by my recent Los Angeles life: Angelenos are a tribe unto themselves.

The Mediterranean Sea itself is unique. The sun rising out of the East is brilliantly bright on clear days. Blindingly bright. I don my sunglasses and drink my coffee facing eastward out on the terrace of my tiny studio apartment.

People walk to work in the morning for the most part with an easy step. They actually seem to be enjoying beginning the day. I’m almost even enjoying having a hard time finding a long-term apartment.

I was refused apartments in Paris and I’ve been refused them here in Nice. No reason is given, but I do think it is because I am American. We are not held in great awe here. I think it is a reaction to our obvious dissension among ourselves.

The French, I sense, believe we have lost our way. They feel, I suspect, that our capacity to produce a Donald Trump defines a disintegration in our values, in our principles. They don’t like him. They feel he has no taste, no sensitive touch, no humanity about him.

Of course, it may be my own prejudice about him. If so, I own up to it. I find him the crudest, most brutal personality to have appeared upon the American scene in centuries. Those who admire him dismay me.

It is, as is sometimes said of Trump, that they can in person be and exhibit such pleasant personalities, while staunchly supporting him, his intensely ungracious manner, his consciously repeated lying, his self-serving deceptions.

His granitelike ego centricity.


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