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Live on CBC as France Breathes a Sigh of Relief

Last Sunday, I had a modest two-point agenda:

  • 2:00 p.m.: Breathing a sigh of relief at the likely victory of Macron when the French election result would be announced
  • 2:15 p.m.: Surviving a scheduled live interview with CBC

No wonder I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night. My typical Sunday goals are sourcing the best deal on string cheese for Mark’s lunchboxes and charging my Kindle.

Last week, a CBC journalist found the blog and emailed me to ask if it’d be willing to offer comments on the French presidential election. “Sure!” I typed.

My phone rang ten minutes later and I found myself explaining why I wouldn’t vote in this second round. I left Starbucks two minutes into the conversation because it felt hypocritical to rant against capitalism sitting inside the global coffee chain with dubious tax practices—pathetic, I know…

“So, do you want to join us live on Sunday to comment on the results at 2 p.m.?” she asked at the end of the call. I readily agreed as if it was the most usual thing in the world and a normal way for me to spend a Sunday afternoon. “After all, this presidential campaign was marked by exaggerated statements and blatant lies,” I rationalized. “I’ll just be yet another ignorant idiot on TV.”

I stuck with my decision and I refused to vote for Macron on Saturday, yet, mentally, I thanked my two friends who reluctantly did in order to block Le Pen’s road to power. Betray your beliefs but help saving democracy or take a big risk to make a point—there was no such thing as a perfect decision.

The strong “swallow your damn pride and vote for Macron!” campaign in France over the past two weeks surprised me. It almost felt like Le Pen’s score was an odd situation, an accident—but we did see it coming, didn’t we? The last-minute calls to “save the country” sounded hypocritical to me.

On Sunday morning, I grabbed an umbrella and headed to CBC’s studios on Queen Street. I left early enough to have the time to have a coffee and relax once I would be downtown. On the way, I answered CBC’s text message questions for the anchor’s script.

Around 1:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. Paris time), I checked #RadioLondres to get around the ban on election reporting before the closure of the last polling station at 8:00 p.m. I sighed with relief reading the hilarious coded Tweets:

My phone beeped: “Quick update, your camera contact has changed.”

Oh, I have a camera contact now? Crazy Sunday…

I walked to CBC and I called the “camera contact” who let me in and took me to the “green room.” I watched the result live at 2:00 p.m.: Macron, 65.1% – Le Pen, 34.9%. In Paris, French flags were waved—Macron supporters, presumably, but for a second, the sea of blue-white-red flags made me uneasy because they are so often used in Front National meetings.

Le Pen’s final score made me wince—with 34.9%, the Front National will not disappear from the political landscape any time soon. I found it hard to cheer up and “celebrate” the election of a candidate so many French voted for because they had no choice to and didn’t truly support.

“Juliette… let’s go.”

I follow the camera guy who led me through the open-office maze of dividers to a desk. I sat there, the camera right on me. We set up the micro and audio system. “Hi Juliette!” I heard in the earpiece, over the live feed reporting on the floods situation. “We’ll be live after the break.”

The other French guest was in Montreal, the anchor was in Toronto and I was in Ottawa.

I focused on looking at the camera and we went live.

“You did fine!” the camera guy said at the end. “It’s really hard to express your opinion quickly, live on TV.”

“I… I think I’ll stick to writing,” I admitted.

I left the studio with mixed feelings. On a personal level, I was still quite honoured CBC, an iconic institution, had offered me the chance to express myself as a dual citizen—one more cool Canadian experience! From a broader perspective, I was sad to see how much support Le Pen and other far-right movements gained over the years.

Since the interview was live, I didn’t get to watch it until the CBC journalist who had contacted me shared a copy yesterday. Feng noted I sound nervous because I have a French accent. I think I have the deer-in-the-headlights look and as you can see, I do NOT master the North American art of talking and smiling at the same time. Also, I wish I looked prettier and I wish I had spoken better.

Whatever. Cool experience.

I need a break from politics now.

CBC visitor pass
Watching the election results live in the waiting room before the interview
No mirrors around… had to take a selfie to make sure I looked okay!

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