The moon rises, casting soft shadows over the field. All is quiet. Suddenly off in the distance the sound of a small airplane engine is heard. It comes in low, skirting the treetops, cuts its engine and lands on the improvised runway. Out of the trees shadows flit across the field, racing towards plane.
The doors of the plane are opened as the first of the shadows approach; soft words are exchanged, and some of the tension leaks out of the air. A sound of a match being struck, and its sudden flare reveals a hard lean face, topped with a beret. More shadows approach the plane and begin to unload wooden crates.
The moon’s rays illuminate some more of the faces, one is a breathtakingly beautiful woman; she’s cradling a semi-automatic rifle in her arms as she keeps a wary watch on the surroundings. Suddenly she hears something: there, off in the distance a vehicle engine. “Hurry” she shouts, in a charming/sensual French accent.
She turns back to her post, slipping the safety off on her weapon, and you know that he is quite prepared to die tonight: to die for France and freedom. Oh how your heart, and your loins, aches for her and her passion. The sound of the truck motor gets louder and you know that it’s a Nazi troop transport full of identical looking grey suited soldiers intent on killing your beauty.
There: the plane is empty and it’s preparing for take off, why doesn’t she leave? Ah they will make sure that the pilot can escape even if they risk their own lives. The plane takes off and clears the tree line and the object of your desire and her companions make back into the woods just as the first headlights from the troop trucks hit the field.
The German’s pour out of their trucks and yell excitedly in guttural Hollywood bad guy language that lets us know that they found the plane’s tire tracks. Mysteriously they look up in the sky but don’t think to look in the forest where the woman and her friends are standing just behind the first row of trees. After some more excited talk, they climb back into their trucks and drive away.
Back amongst the trees, the man in the beret comes up to the woman, and you hate him for what is about to happen, he scoops her in his arms, and looks her straight in the eye:
“Don’t take risks like that again” he says in some strange sounding accent.
“I would risk everything for France” is her throaty reply
They stare at each other, and then, inevitably, exchange a passionate kiss. One of the extras hisses from the dark. “Queekly ve must go before zey come back.” Then they all melt into the shadows from which they came.
Okay so maybe that’s a little over the top, but who hasn’t seen a variation of that in one movie or another. They didn’t have to be French; they could be any ethnic minority fighting some oppressor or other. Usually at some point in the movie either a brave American or Britt will show up to help them win the war, fall in love with the beautiful resistance fighter, etc etc.
No matter how clichéd that may sound or look, that’s the image that comes to mind whenever I hear someone use the word partisan. It has always been a positive word to my mind. Evoking images of brave men and women fighting horrible odds in a bid to achieve freedom from oppression.
Obviously those romantic images as portrayed by Hollywood and British filmmakers during World War Two had little to do with the reality of the situation. But little groups of people like that have existed since the Napoleonic wars of the 1800s. In Spain the first guerrilla warfare was fought as resistance to the invasion of their country. They worked with Wellington’s armies to help sabotage supply lines and make life miserable for the French troops.
Therefore the word partisan has always had nothing but positive connotations for me. I had never even thought of it in a negative light until the last ten of fifteen years when the word started leaping from the mouths of politicians of all stripes.
Now all of a sudden everything is partisan: newspapers, radio shows, television broadcasts, and of course politicians. Any time anybody has an opinion on any subject that differs from one’s own they are branded with the “P” word.
It’s like the big clue to the people listening that you can’t believe that person because they are biased. Why are they biased? Well because they are letting their support of their party get in the way of their reasoning. What’s very confusing is that no one ever seems to question the partisanship of the person making the accusation.
The other thing that nobody asks is what’s so bad about party loyalty, or believing in something? Sure one should look at issues with as open a mind as possible, but most people have some sort of belief system that they base decisions on. By labelling all voices of dissent partisan aren’t we calling into question a person’s right to hold a different opinion, or to have a different belief system?
Yes there are times when partisanship is a negative; when people just blindly follow along with what a party says and don’t bother to form their own opinions. But it seems that the people who scream the word the loudest are ones who are on the defensive about something and are being even more partisan than those they are accusing.
When Clinton was being roasted by the Republicans the Democrats screamed partisanship. Now that Bush and company has found themselves in a mess, it’s there turn to chant the familiar refrain. If you think about it for a second it becomes really quite ridiculous.
They don’t agree with us because they are a different political party. Well duh. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen in politics? Isn’t that why there are such things as political parties so that people with different idea and beliefs can have a means of expressing themselves?
Think back to our beautiful French woman at the beginning of this article. Part of what makes so appealing is her passion for her cause. The willingness to die for the right to be free: her partisanship. In her we see that as a positive attribute, one to be admired and even emulated.
But we have corrupted the word into something negative. Somehow in the transition from a noun to an adjective the implications of the word shifted. A partisan was someone passionate about their commitment to freedom, and fighting for their rights. But if you’re partisan, that commitment is made out to be a detriment.
I also wonder why the word is only used in the political arena; there are other areas in our society where it is just as applicable. You never hear of an especially dogmatic Christian or Muslim being referred to as partisan, even though it is far more likely to happen that people are blinded by faith more than anything else. I can’t think of anyone more partisan than the Pope or one of the Ayatollahs in Iran.
There’s probably not much point in expecting anybody to change their habits this late in the day; the use of the word partisan as a negative adjective is probably here to stay. I just wish that people would be more careful in their usage of the English language. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t automatically make their opinion partisan.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have a rendezvous to attend in a moonlit glade in France with a beautiful partisan: adieu.