Fate of Trump and Macron’s Friendship Tree is a “Metaphor for a Relationship that Isn’t What it Was”

Published on June 10, 2019 by Athena Pallas

The tree that President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted last year at the White House as a symbol of the friendship between France and the U.S., also viewed as a symbol of what then seemed like a bromance between Trump and Macron, is now not only dead, but never made it out of quarantine. Choosing a living thing as a symbol of friendship is an iffy proposition, because now its death seems all the more a symbol for the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and its key allies as the result of President Trump’s often less-than-diplomatic approach to democracies, and his unilateral decisions to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord as well as the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Le Monde was one of several French news outlets to report on the death of the tree and commented on the symbolism of that death, writing, according to The Guardian, that its death is a “metaphor for a relationship that isn’t what it was”.

From the beginning, the planting of this tree wasn’t quite what it seemed. Trump and Macron may have used gold-colored shovels to plant the tree in front of the press, but since the tree was from France, it was shortly thereafter dug back up to go to quarantine, to be certain it didn’t carry disease or insects that would be invasive to the U.S. The tree did not survive that quarantine and so was never replanted. Where the tree was meant to stand there is a yellowing patch of grass instead. According to The Guardian:

It was a symbolic gift from Emmanuel Macron to Donald Trump at the height of their “bromance” last year: an oak tree ceremoniously planted in the manicured lawns of the White House by both leaders. Macron, on a state visit to the US at the time, tweeted that the sapling would be “a reminder … of these ties that bind us” and the “tenacity of the friendship” of the two nations. …Now, just as symbolically with relations strained between the two, the oak tree has reportedly died. … Macron and Trump, wielding gold-coloured spades, shovelled dirt around it, watched by the first ladies Brigitte Macron and Melania Trump and the world’s press during the April 2018 state visit. Even at the time, the auspices were not good: jokes quickly spread on social media that Macron was trolling Trump over his environmental policies. Once the cameras had departed, the tree was uprooted and placed into quarantine to avoid the spread of non-native diseases and invasive insects. … Now it appears the oak did not survive its time in quarantine. Its death was confirmed by a diplomatic source to Agence France-Presse. Just like the Macron-Trump love-in, it is no more.

Macron at the time of the planting last year had posted a short video showing Trump and Macron shoveling dirt around the tree. The tree was from France’s Belleau Wood, the site of a key World War I battle from June of 1918 in which 1,811 Americans died, so Macron wrote, “100 years ago, American soldiers fought in France, in Belleau to defend our freedom. This oak tree (my gift to @realDonaldTrump) will be a reminder at the White House of these ties that bind us.”

As symbols go, its hard to miss not only the death of this friendship tree, but also its failure ever to take root, ever even to emerge from quarantine.

Featured image of Trump and Macron temporarily planting the tree in question on April 23, 2018, via Wikimedia Commons.