Cowboy and Musketeer.
The relationship between the nations France and USA is puzzling. There is obviously not much love lost between the two. Occasionally it seems a bit like a war between ex's.
At the first glance the constant quarrel does not make a whole lot of sense. France and the USA have much in common. They are both pioneers of democracy. Their nations were among the first to be born. They never waged war against each other. On the contrary, when the US were struggling for independence from England, France supported them. The French honoured their fight for freedom and gave them Lady Liberty as a gift, a symbol of their new freedom. Later, when France was in dire need of assistance, the US sacrificed their soldiers for their friends.
Both of them had to fight for their existence against an established system. And against the English, their formerly common enemy.
Viewed from afar these two are so much alike that they should actually understand each other on an almost instinctive level. But it is not so.
Why? Well, on second glance they have another thing in common, something that is deeply rooted in both their histories: they are incredibly proud. This pride, that can easily be called excentric, has a tendency towards the nationalistic. The people hold their cultures higher than everyone elses', their ways of life are considered sacred. There is a strong identification with the language, the hymn, the flag, the military. And they both demand the leading role in the world, even if in different fields. They will not accept other gods beside themselves.
Then there are the differences. And those could not be more drastic.
France is a lacistic state. Officially since the beginning of the 20th century, but actually it has been since 1789. After the revolution the official state religion was atheism. The church was banned, cathedrals were turned into state buildings. It did not last long but it left a mark. The revolution was not only a reaction to the monarchy but also to the church. After the antithetic movement of Robbespierre, France remained completely secular. The people of France are united under a nation. Not under a religion. Matters of belief must never interfere with the state.
The USA took the other path. As a puritan colony their belief held them together even before they became a nation. Their struggle for freedom was also a demonstration of belief. Even today religion plays a great role in the daily life of the USA. It permeates social events, politics, music and art. It stretches into dimension that can appear utterly bizarre to Europeans, who view religion mostly as a tradition and much less as a spiritual path.
There are other things. Both peoples are idealistic but in different ways. While Americans want to get things done, the French worhip the method ("la methode!") above all else. Things have to be done, but in the proper way.
Like so many Eurpoeans the French tend to dwell in th past and fear change, while Americans embrace it and do not hesitate to take risks.
Watching their movies, their stories, their heroes carefully can give us a glimpse of how different these two cultures really are. That in itself would not be much of a problem. Germany has close to nothing in common with either and yet it's relationships to both are by far more friendly. Then again Germany, as a state, is by far more humble, having received rather than won their democracy. Similar goes for England, who acted very British and found a more gentle yet as effective way of dealing with their monarchy in order to gain their democracy.
The USA and France though are essentially warriors. It was in battle that they gained the right for their existence. Their aggressivity assured their survival. It constitutes their identities. And apparently there can be only one.