It’s Bastille day and I’d like to talk about the French national anthem. It is regularly discussed whether its words should be changed. Why? See for yourself why it might be deemed offensive:
Let us go, children of the Fatherland
The day of glory has arrived.
Against us, the bloody Flag
of tyranny is raised,
The bloody flag is raised.
Do you hear in the countryside
The roar of these savage soldiers
They come right into our arms
To slaughter our sons and our wives.
To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions,
March on, March on!
May their impure blood
Water our fields
Sanguinary, isn’t it? One must admit that it’s completely lost its relevance, and that its violence is slightly over the top. People have been arguing that it would be a lot more fitting and productive to have a national anthem calling all French people to live in peace and harmony, for example. The mention of "impure blood" is particularly shocking within a context of racism and inter-religion feuds. Besides, it’s outrageously sexist; it is clearly meant to be sung by men and thus ostracizes half of the French population.
However, I would be quite upset if it was scrapped. I think the words are so absolutely ludicrous and out of date that they have lost their meaning; I don’t think any sports fan actually thinks about what they’re saying when they’re bellowing it before a rugby game/race etc. I also find it incredibly rousing and can’t help feeling moved when thousands of people are shouting it at the same time. This, of course, doesn’t sit well at all with my dislike of nationalist feelings in general. However, I like the fact that however disconnected and remote from my mother country I feel, it can’t fail to move me and to make me feel a bit more… French. It’s completely irrational and of course, I agree that a national anthem should ideally carry a message of peace and understanding between all nations. However, I can’t help feeling quite strongly that we should keep it, maybe as a reminder of our history, maybe because we should be happy that the most hostile environment we’ll sing it in nowadays is a football stadium.