The two second glimpse of le nouveau Président Hollande

The wind picked up speed, the gust forcing a current of pollen into the crowd. The flare- up of coughs followed suit, a precursor for the downpour of rain and hail that clouded over the sky.

But then, the rain let down, the wind slowed its course. French flags replaced the umbrellas waving among the sea of supporters.

Security lined the gates surrounding the perimeter of l’Hotel de Ville, Paris's town hall. An air of excitement layered thickly as the anticipation for the president’s arrival grew.

The rumble of motorcycles neared, the blue of the headlights growing larger, concealing the car tailing behind.

The whispers among the crowd disappeared as a roaring applause replaced. The car pulled up, the window rolled down to reveal a beaming President Francois Hollande. He waved to the crowd. It all seemed to move in slow motion.

The mayor of Paris stepped out of the car first, turning his back to l'Hotel de Ville. A stately wave and then a pause, taking a few steps behind him as France's new president stood out from the car, the spotlight all on him.

The crowd applauded; No opposition group spoke out, no cheers, chants and whistling overtook. Hollande walked ahead, his girlfriend a few steps behind him-- the two surrounded by the scrawniest of bodyguards. The president worked his way through the route, shaking the hands of supporters before disappearing behind the grand doors of the city's town hall. The two TV screens, positioned to either side of l’Hotel de Ville, switched to the interior scene, streaming the live procession continuing with the officials within. Inside, the bise (a kiss on either cheek) replaced the shake of the hand. The crowd whistled-- the first and only break to the calm atmosphere-- after Hollande bised one of the women. I asked a lady next to me, “Why?” She answered that the woman has a scandalous, sexual past.

I laughed: how French.

In the past few months, I haven't followed the election thoroughly, merely getting my snippets of information from the French news and occasionally from Madame (house mama), a big time Sarkozy supporter.

She looked surprised when I told her I went to the procession. You don't support the opposition, in France. And for the French, just turning up counts as support.

But I wasn’t there to support. I couldn't support, given I haven't followed it all well enough to support. I went to take part in an event—a historical one, as such-- and one that America, eight months from now, will have as well.

But in America, the cheers will be noisier, the crowd far more energetic. The weather will be justifiably cold, given it’ll be January. The president will walk with his wife-- or perhaps she with her husband—and no one will whistle if the president bises a woman with a scandalous private past. Because we don’t bise. And scandalous pasts are kept on the DL. There won't be room to stand because all of America will seem to show up and both supporters and non- supporters will turn out.

Paris isn’t based in its political scene, unlike Washington. A different history has shaped the two in their own rights. Not better, just different.

The news articles this evening described the afternoon’s procession as low- key. It won’t be low- key come January in the states-- no matter the results of our elections. There’s a difference between the manner in which American voters and French voters respond.

Not better. Just different. 







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