Understanding The French (Or At Least Trying To)
French-bashing has usually been popular in the U.S. But since the run up to Iraq it seems like it's hit a fever pitch, particularly among those who strongly support the President. America (and the West) is in the fight of it's life against Islamofacist terrorism and the perception to many in this country is that the French government is doing its best to impede our efforts in this struggle.
How accurate this perception is can be debated ad infinitum.
On the other side, the perception held by many French citizens of the actions of our government demonstrates that they are equally as frustrated with America.
Will this change anytime soon? I seriously doubt it.
But I've put a lot of thought into this lately and, with all due respect to my fellow countrymen who may feel differently, I don't think French-bashing helps the relationship between our two nations any more than America-bashing does. God, I know I'm going take a lot of crap for this. I can hear some of you talking back to your computer screens right now.
- Whoa, hold on a minute, Gary. Are you going all soft on us? -
No, no, no. Don't misunderstand me. I have a lot of criticism for the policies of the French government. Sometimes it's downright infuriating. But taking out your frustration and anger by making cheap shots at the French people is...well...unfair.
- Well, Kumba-freakin'-ya! Why do you all of a sudden care what the French think about America? What's happened to you? -
Actually, I don't really care. And you know what? They don't care what we think of them. But here's my point (stay with me on this one): Why are many Americans so disdainful of the French? And why are many of the French so disdainful of Americans?
Each country thinks the other one is arrogant, immature, self-centered and disrespectful of their culture. Seems to me that our biggest problem is that we don't really understand each other. Perhaps if we did there would be a lot less animosity towards each other - an animosity that, frankly, we could both do without.
France and the United States have a long history that's filled with both times of adversity and times of unity, like any relationship. And, like it or not, we do share a common enemy today. Hate is a really unproductive emotion. I prefer to save it for those who want to see us converted to Islam or see us dead.
- Hold on here. Are you trying to tell me that I can't express my anger at the French in a way that I see fit? -
I don't mean to lecture here. I'm only sharing my thoughts and feelings. I for one have decided to go on the record here that going forward I will not be wasting my time and energy attacking a people with whom we have more in common than not. Instead, I will be keeping an open mind in trying to understand the French as a people and a culture. And in that light, gratuitous French-bashing will not be a part of this weblog.
- Oh for crying out loud! Now you're going to be wondering "why do they hate us?" You sound like a left-wing loony! -
No, what I mean is that I find it more productive to try and reach out to a people we can find common ground with if we better understood each other. If anyone else is interested in taking this route, I recommend this website. It's maintained by a Frenchman named Phillippe Rochefort, who has an American wife. It's full of information and commentary about everything you could know about France. The author even offers his own constructive criticism of some of his country's policies and gives advice to his fellow countrymen in how to better understand Americans.
- You're nuts, pal. Go do your little cultural exploration but leave me out of it. -
Whatever. Look, life is too short to be angry with people for mostly superficial reasons. I must be mellowing as I inch closer to 40. I would just encourage anyone else to rethink they way they feel.
Any guys out there who need more incentive, just take a look:
Can't we all just get along, mon ami?
Posted by: Gary at
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Mon Dieu, Gary!
I don't hate the french....
I love the french...as much as they love President Bush. Seriously, I believe that puts me on a level playing ground when I travel.
I've been fortunate enought to have had fantastic opportunities to travel since I was in highschool - a trend that continues to this day. What I've found bubbling under the surface, especialy among Europeans my age, is a jealous fascination with the American culture. To the lurking libs - this phenonmenon did not arise after 9/11. I encountered this repeatedly through the 90's.
I applaud you, Gary, for advocating a non-bashing policy towards the french. When dealing with Euros in public I find it is best to maintain a cool cordiality, until they slip up, then I let them know that their comments are reprehensible. Most wisely shut their mouths...
Look, I know there are French citizens that truly admire President Bush and think highly of the US. I found such individuals when I was last in Spain and I'm sure they exist in france. If they would only organize and vote out of office their current governments...
Anyway, I'm off to plan my next trip...BA is looking good
Posted by: Skye at September 21, 2006 03:55 PM (N1z5v)
Yeah, you know it's nice if we all just got along. But, seriously, ask yourself this: exactly what has France been good for since it lost its king.
That's awful. There are few countries that I can think of who were less useful to the world after they got rid of their monarchies. Russia, China and France are three of them.
It's very difficult for me to think of a country that has, in the last 200 years, achieved so little, yet is so full of itself.
Britain has, for example, been infinitely more useful to the world, and the Brits have nowhere near the chauvanism of the Gauls.
Yes, we do share more in common with the French than we differ. Matter of fact, we share more with chimpanzees than with donkeys, but that doesn't mean I don't hate chimpanzees.
Wait, what am I saying?
In truth, one could make the argument that we have more in common with Saudis than we differ. This argument used to be made with the Russians.
(Do we share much in common? We have a different language. A different system of government, essentially, very different views on the value of an aristocratic class, different economic views, different appreciation for philosophy (they like a philosopher if he's French, we like one if he's useful), different views on religion, the proper role of the state. What do we share in common with them? A Christian heritage? Fat lot of good. We shared that with Germany, too (and more Protestantism in Germany than in France, actually).
But Germany was still our enemy.
I don't give a fig what the French think about us, or what they think about themselves alone at night with their pants around their ankles. What I do care about is that the French stop making things worse EVERY. WHERE. THEY. GO. Name a Democracy France helped create. Now name all the people around the world who live in tyrranical countries supported or established because of French perfidy.
Example: the only reason Ho Chi Minh could even make a case for Communism (and really, he pushed Nationalism with the people) was because the French were such bastards in Viet Nam for a century. We ended up losing our boys for that mess.
So, no. I won't respect the French until they stop asserting their worth and start proving it. And they do damn little of that.
Posted by: Grayson Hill at September 21, 2006 04:41 PM (3Vh45)
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