photo & text by nacrowe
inspired by the political repercussions (and widespread FRANCOPHOBIA) that followed FRANCE's refusal to participate in AMERICA's fraudulent military misadventures in IRAQ in the wake of 9/11 (and the all-too predictable moronic backlash by AMURRICANS thereafter), LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES (RIVERHEAD, 2015) by SARAH VOWELL is a compelling examination of the FRANCO-AMERICAN relationship during the REVOLUTIONARY WAR through the journey of noted patriot, GILBERT DU MOTIER, the MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
what i love about VOWELL's writing style is her way of balancing the charm of an attentive first-person TRAVELOGUE with the well-researched heft of an almost academic piece of NONFICTION and HISTORY writing. her narrative voice is nuanced, commanding and (quite often) sardonic which allows her to tackle something as seemingly dry and quotidian as the REVOLUTIONARY WAR period and make it intriguing.
as ive mentioned before, i took AP UNITED STATES HISTORY in high school and i was wholly unaware of how mistaken i was about the facts of that war. for instance, i never realized how malnourished, undertrained, unarmed and unsupported that CONTINENTAL ARMY actually was. essentially the individual colonies didnt see the need to adequately raise a decent military, which is maddening and counter to the narrative i was familiar with. case in point was the debacle of VALLEY FORGE which saw thousands of AMERICAN soldiers perish from exposure to the elements during a harsh PENNSYLVANIA winter.
another example was the lengths to which the FRENCH NAVY essentially secured our victory at YORKTOWN after an offshore entanglement with the BRITISH NAVY. yes, the most crucial battle of the AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR had, you guessed it, zero AMERICANS involved. just incredible. this providing of FRENCH capital in terms of its LABOR, ARMS, GOLD and BLOOD is best personified in that of LAFAYETTE, a FRENCH teenage aristocrat who volunteered by his own expense because of his love of freedom (and hatred of the BRITISH), who proved himself a capable leader and essential partner in the war effort that birth this new nation. he risked life, limb and status in pursuit of the idea of this yet-to-be-realized nation. some (like me) would argue that the dude was an overzealous, bloodthirsty fanatic, but hey, he's arguably one of the greatest AMERICANS ever, and he's not even AMERICAN!
so in essence i am thankful to VOWELL for writing this book so that i can sigh and cringe in an ever-more-annoyed state the next time i hear mention FREEDOM FRIES or the questioning of foreign allies. its so laughable it is quite depressing.
and that is where im at. thats where ive been since the BUSH JR era.
LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES is a great book on an oddly important subject that every AMERICAN should be better versed in (but wont, you know, because we dont read - or think critically).