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By PATRICIA FIELDSTEEL | NYONS, France — Summer in Provence is hot, clogged with the tourist hordes, doing what tourists do. We locals continue with our daily lives. Several weekends ago, Emily, my Westie, and I attended a nearby vide-grenier (village tag sale). Long tables were set up for pizza, snacks and drinks. I sat next to a couple and their 8-year-old daughter. We began to chat. New Yorkers around here are rare. They loved America, especially Manhattan.
Inevitably the conversation turned to DSK (“day-ess-kah”) as Dominique Strauss-Kahn is known in France. This was after the May 14 bombshell arrest but before the second shock concerning his accuser on June 30. The couple generally voted Socialist, but it depended on the candidate. They would not have voted for DSK, despite liking his politics, because they felt he was sexually sick. Everyone knew the rumors about couples échangistes, the gropings, the abuse of power and position for sexual favors, the excesses of the flesh, the taste in young girls. The underage granddaughter of friends of theirs, they claimed had been molested by him. The two families had once been old friends. The couple was grateful what had happened in New York City had occurred before DSK became president.
When the news initially broke, France was in shock, ripped apart. I called a French friend who had worked in Hollywood for 40 years. A setup. Most likely a Sarkozy plot. Many agreed. Others blamed the uptight, overly moral Americans. Then the perp walk for a “Great Man of France” got everyone riled. My elderly German neighbors were enraged: “IN GERMANY, that would not be allowed. We have always been a civilized, nonviolent country, unlike America.”
For a few weeks, little else was discussed. Eventually, everyone calmed down. The perp walk was all but forgotten. After all, “The American system is different from ours.” Revulsion with DSK set in. The sleaze factor could no longer be contained. Nor was it desirable. As more than one person said to me, “Yes, in France we separate public from private life. But on the presidential level, the two merge.”
Many people with whom I spoke had liked his politics and would have voted for him, before. Today, I could find no one. The consensus is he is a seriously sick man with a sexual addiction. One or two felt, way in the future, if he underwent therapy, well, then perhaps.
And what of the woman from Guinea, who was initially referred to in the French press as “the pious Ophelia”? Some felt a user and an abuser found each other. Many feared she had been put up to it by people within the Sarkozy camp. It is a French hotel owned by Accor, a major supporter of Sarkozy’s party, people point out. The sense is, the woman who is now named everywhere, is still most likely a victim, if not a very likable one. It is common, especially for people coming from countries such as Guinea, to have to lie to gain entry to the U.S.
The behavior of the American media has shocked everyone.
Less than three months later, DSK is no longer “A La Une” (Page 1 news). Yes, there is the affair of the young Tristane Banon and the revolting soap opera concerning her mother that has just been revealed. The attitude seems to be, Let the Americans deal with him in New York, here we’ve got Banon and her charges. Essentially, everyone has had enough.
Over here, Aug. 1 and departure en masse of the French for their holidays was the real news.