I’ve been wanting to write about this French expression for a while now, and I finally have the occasion!
Nuit blanche is the French expression for an “all-nighter” — literally “white night.” It refers to a night when you don’t sleep at all, and it could result from any of several reasons — including, importantly for a student, staying up all night cramming for a test. But for most French, I suspect, a nuit blanche is associated with partying all night long!
Since 2002, “La Nuit Blanche” has been used to refer to an annual all-night arts festival in Paris. Every October, the city’s museums, art galleries, and cultural centers open to the public free of charge for an entire night. In fact, the City of Light truly lives up to its nickname by turning itself into an outdoor art gallery with performance spaces and art installations all over the place. The history of La Nuit Blanche is long, but it seems to have been inspired initially by Helsinki’s 1989 “Night of the Arts” and the subsequent wave of such nocturnal arts festivals across Europe. You can click here for some of the history of La Nuit Blanche, and here for a guide to Paris’s most recent festivities on October 6 of this year.
My nuit blanche this week was just a bit different, though …
Despite the title and the subject of this post, I’m not going to turn this into a stump speech. After all, most of you probably already know or can guess my political leanings. Instead, this post is about civic duty and the exercise of our rights. As an American expatriate living in France, my view of the current election season back home is obviously a bit different. I read the same online news as most Americans and I regularly communicate via Facebook and Skype with my family and friends in America, but I also get to witness the campaigns through the lens of French society. I read election coverage in the French media as well and I often have the honor and — one might say — the burden of discussing it with my family and friends here. That certainly changes the perspective.
Looking at it from the outside, it’s easier to see how we Americans take our right to vote for granted and — with our unique Electoral College system — assume that our individual voices just aren’t that important, especially if we live in places where the election results are foregone conclusions (whether that’s Oklahoma or the District of Columbia or any number of states in between). Whether or not an individual vote will change the outcome on November 6 is really beside the point, though, isn’t it? After all, the very fact that we have the right to go to the ballot box (or the voting machine … or the post office with an absentee ballot in hand) is the result of centuries of struggle by generations of Americans: those who risked execution as traitors to their King; those who were lynched as “uppity” for trying to exercise their rights; those who faced down billy clubs, fire hoses, and attack dogs on the Alabama asphalt; yes, even those who risk being turned away from the polls in six and half weeks. Sometimes, you have to exercise the right in order to honor the right. Continue reading I just voted! ✔ How about you?