One morning I had forgotten to eat breakfast before heading off to school, fortunately I knew that the cafeteria would always have something delicious available for breakfast.
“I’d like to have some french toast, sausages, and orange juice, please.” I requested.
The cafeteria lady, who was known for being kind, was a woman in her mid-sixties with grey hair in a short perm under a black hairnet, wearing glasses with a thick black rim and also a striped sweater in the school’s colors of red, black, and white, and some black slacks shook her head. “I’m sorry, we’re all out of french toast; but we do have freedom toast. Same thing.”
“What gives?” I asked.
“Some politician was upset that French government decided not to stick with us in the war that he changed all the menus so now we have freedom toast, freedom fries, and freedom mustard.” She answered.
“What do the French have to say all about this?” I asked.
“That they have more important things to worry about than what we call our potatoes. That’s the thing about freedom, if we truly value it, then we have to accept it when others use their freedom to do whats right for their people even if it’s not what we want them to do. Otherwise it wouldn’t really be freedom if we could just tell them what to do and how to live.” She replied.
“In that case, may I have some French-Freedom Toast so that I may have the best of both worlds?” I asked.
“Certainly.” She said, taking a red tray and putting a serving of french toast, sausage, and a container of orange juice in it’s compartments and handed it to me.
“Thanks! Have a nice day!” I said and then headed for my usual table to enjoy my meal. I had never before considered that freedom doesn’t always mean that we’re always on the same boat going in the same direction. Sometimes you have to go in another direction and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re abandoning your friends. Eventually the whole thing blew over and everyone forgot that they were supposed to replace French with Freedom.
There is, I think, a link between freedom and France that’s easy to over-look for those of us on the other side of the world. It’s part of our history that the French gave us the Liberty statue and with it – this poem has reminded us of one of our chief virtues:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We are a land of freedom because the French people helped us in the Revolutionary War, they recognized us as a sovereign nation and provided us with arms and were our first ally. Benjamin Franklin himself served as our ambassador to France. In short, without the French, we wouldn’t have had the freedom that we know and love today. We’re like two old friends who constantly get each other into trouble just to rescue each other out of it again. I hope that remains to be the case, come what may.
I’d like to think that we’re worthy students of France’s benevolence, and can do something remarkable; keep our doors open to those who are tempest-tost out of the Middle East and giving them the freedom and security that we have so thoroughly enjoyed. Let’s not give into fear, hatred, and mistrust. We can do so much better than that – and if we value what liberty truly means, then we must give everyone a chance to do what they will with it. I have a feeling that there are remarkable people who need only the chance to prove that they’re good people like we are – but we have to give them that chance for a better life, like France did for us a long time ago.