Strange Politics and USA honored

Strange Politics

One of the first things one sees in Noumea is the American Memorial. Here gratitude is paid for the American troops who liberated New Caledonia from the Japanese in WWII. When I stopped by I met a young French man and he explained the history to me—yes a twenty something French kid knew how many American lives were lost and was deeply grateful for the sacrifice. He had an emotional response that I was not expecting and had not seen in any European or American for that matter youth. It became evident that this response was typical as I traveled about the city. I found four other war memorials honoring the US troops. There is a yearly event honoring the liberation.

The history of this island country is interesting and it is still the last holdout of French colonialism. The French have fought hard to maintain control using force on many occasions as recently as the late 80’s. The Kanak,( indigenous people) have also rebelled and fought back. A compromise transition agreement was met but seems to not be implemented. The book I read on the subject told of how the Kanak people were treated so much better by the Americans during WWII than they had been by the French.

Strong emotions run deep on both sides. This was made evident by my recent encounter with three well armed, very angry Police officers. When I left Seattle the good folks at Bellingham Charts Printers provided me with courtesy flags for each country I would visit. When I opened the bag marked New Caledonia I found a colorful flag but not a French flag as I expected. After clearing customs I always make a big deal out of raising the local flag—I like flags! I thought it cool that I had the only New Cal flag in the harbor until the law came. We had guests aboard and were a bit stunned at the arrival of the police squad. They demanded I take down “that flag” “it stands for Independence” and asked if I had a French one, to which I replied no but would be happy to buy one, where? No answer as it is not legal to sell French flags here—go figure!

Now my first reaction would have ended poorly so i retreated, and did not point out to them that as an American we sort like independence! When I did give them my explanation to my New Cal flag and insured them I was not a revolutionary I thought that would do, but no, I had to take it down—NOW. A friend had an extra French flag so I did the switch.

Now after the French bravely fought the Germans for a weekend and we had to get their country back for them and after we fought hard at the side of the Kanaks—one war memorial lists the Kanak casualties— and not a Frog listed anywhere—I am puzzled as to how the French got this country back. I am more puzzled as to how they have kept such a tight fist on the local folks for so long.

The answer is nickel. The small French population owns most of the land and mines nickel. When my new friends took me for a drive into the back country I saw miles and miles of raw land that had been mined with seemingly no concern for the environment. It was a clear cut wasteland unlike I have seen since Vancouver Island thirty years ago.

Following the good advice of Capt Kirk on the Star Ship Enterprise, I have a “no involvement” policy while traveling strange lands… and not unlike Capt. Kirk I sometimes waver from it, but for now I will fold up my beautiful New Cal flag, hoist the blue, white and red and just sail away, but not before a little fun with some new friends


1 thought on “Strange Politics and USA honored”

  1. I have found that we only provided you with Courtesy flags for Mexico, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand and the Quarantine flag. So, YIPES, how did that New Caledonia flag get into your possession and on board the Yacht “Further”. It’s a MYSTERY!

    I have discovered that we sold one New Caledonia flag to a 49′ Jeanneau in 2006, and one to a 90′ Swan in 2008. I think I will email them your story and warn them if they haven’t already been to this fine “French” territory. Hopefully, we sent them the French Flag and not the Independent Flag.

Comments are closed.