From any pronouncement, a single need to discount feelings, purple prose, and metaphors. Language is complicated. In non-mathematical languages, factors usually (if not generally) do not actually imply what they say. This is even truer for politician-speak.
As Notre-Dame-de-Paris was burning, French president Emmanuel Macron tweeted:
Like all of our compatriots, I am sad this evening to see this component of us burning.
His original tweet was of course in French, but he repeated it in English. The English version is as close as probable to the French original:
Comme tous nos compatriotes, je suis triste ce soir de voir brûler cette component de nous.
I have no trouble believing that Mr. Macron was as sad as have been several of “us”—people who share some of my and his aesthetic preferences and values. Several have sturdy memories from going to the cathedral. I recall climbing the stairs of the bell tower and feeling the weight of history on the stone curved in by eight centuries of footsteps. And Notre-Dame-de-Paris is an vital monument of Western civilization and French history.
But, borrowing the point of view of the French, Notre-Dame is not a “part of us” and it is quite unlikely that “all” of Mr. Macron’s compatriots have been sad. In a nation of 67 million, some definitely did not care. Most likely far more than a single was content material, if only for the entertainment. It would not be the 1st time Notre-Dame did not make unanimity: in the course of the French Revolution, the cathedral was looted with the help of the public authorities and was utilized for wine storage.
Macron’s is not the worst use of “us” in history. It is not the most harmful nationalist or tribal appeal that we have heard. (Note that my use of “we” just now is purely rhetorical and refers to an indeterminate topic in such instances, the French language makes it possible for the use of “on” as an alternative of “nous.”) I would also opine that several who have been not sad to see Notre-Dame burning are not amongst the finest specimen of mankind. But, the use of “us” remains fraught with danger. A single must generally be clear in his personal thoughts about who is incorporated in the “we” set.
Macron also tweeted that Notre-Dame-de-Paris would be restored by way of a “national subscription” also open to foreigners who like Notre-Dame-de-Paris. He could not stay away from some we-speak and invoking the “French national destiny.” But considering of a voluntary subscription to finance this public excellent is smart. Furthermore, I am confident that the cost of going to the renovated monument will raise. (If I recall properly, walking in the cathedral was free of charge even though there was a charge for going to the tower.) Best public goods are uncommon.