Posted by: Randy Allgaier | July 14, 2007

Happy Bastille Day! What is with conservatives hating the French?


Happy Bastille Day! I have to admit to being an ardent Francophile. I love French food, French wine, French philosophy, Paris, the Languedoc, and the French people. So I do not understand why folks dislike the French. France is the land of the American Revolutionary hero Lafayette and was the country to present us with a gift that has become an icon in the United States-The Statue of Liberty.

Let me be clear about my personal experience. The French like American people, they dislike and distrust the American government. Odd that we would resent the French for disliking our government when both the President and the Congress have appallingly low poll numbers among our own citizenry. 

It seems rather bizarre to me that the French can seperate their dislike of our government from their affection for Americans but conservative Americans can’t.  These Americans seem to say to the world- “If you disagree with our government we hate you.”  It seems just a tad juvenile to me…. somewhat like a bully in a schoolyard fight.

After we invaded Iraq and President Bush did not get the support he expected to get from the French, I heard more vitriol from conservatives- or what I call the radical “wrong”- about the French than ever. The French were tarred in the New York Post, among others, as the leaders of the “Axis of Weasel.” National Review’s Jonah Goldberg made “cheese-eating surrender monkeys”—a Groundskeeper Willie line from an episode of The Simpsons—the rallying cry of Francophobes.  It is interesting that after former Secretary of State Colin Powell made President Bush’s case to invade Iraq at the United Nations the French ambassador said that “military intervention in Iraq would be the worst possible solution.” It seems that he was spot on in his assessment!

It seems that the dislike of the French is related to World War II and the assumption that France just rolled over for the Nazis and hasn’t been genuflecting enough to the American government ever since the end of the war.

Let’s address the issue of France surrendering to the Nazis. It seems odd to me that Americans hate the French and like the Germans- after all weren’t the Germans the Nazis? It also seems odd to me that Poland is not accused of being a nation of weaklings. It took the Nazis about the same amount of time to take Poland as it took them to take France. Many Polish were as much if not more supportive of the Nazis as was the Vichy government in France. Both Poland and France had active resistance movements and there were French and Polish heroes for the struggle against the Nazis and the Fascists in Italy. Anti-Semitism was present in both Poland and France but it flourished in Poland making it a country that was complicit in the Holocaust.

Why do we not hate the Polish? Maybe it is because they owed their liberation to the Soviet Union and not the United States so Americans don’t see them as being beholden to us. But I don’t think that’s it. There are more Americans that are within a generation or two from Poland than from France which is why conservative Americans don’t saddle Poland with the same “surrender-monkey” moniker that they give to the French.

Quite frankly it is a little arrogant of the United States to take full credit for the liberation of France. Yes- Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Chief of Allied Forces- but those forces included not just Americans but British and Free French and were facilitated by the French Resistance.

What about the Treaty of Versailles after World War I? President Wilson brokered a peace that would have stabilized the world. Ultimately the United States Congress reneged on some of the key provisions of the Treaty and one might contend that because of this it was easier for Nazi Germany to gain power.

In 1939 the French were still reeling from a war that was mostly fought on their soil – World War I. When I was in the Languedoc a few years ago I was struck that every small village had a World War I memorial with the names of the native sons lost during that conflict. After seeing a few of these memorials it was clear that the toll that World War I had on the French was massive. After the horror of a war conculded only a little less than two decades earlier it is understandable why the French were unable and, in some cases, unwilling to engage in a bloody conflict so soon again.

After the United States reneged on various provisions of the Treaty of Versailles it would be understandable for France to assume that the United States “owed” them, but they didn’t. The French greeted the United States and the other allies as liberators. Didn’t the very conservatives that mock the French say that we were supposed to be greeted as liberators in Iraq? Ironic isn’t it.

No – there are really only three basic reasons that the American Conservatives dislike the French and they are pretty distasteful reasons in my book.

1. France is liberal. The dirty little secret is that this liberal country has a better quality of life for its people than the conservatives have provided in the United States. What an embarrassment to the conservatives in the U S of A!

2.  The French have an adamantly secular government and conservative Americans seem to have an aversion to what Bill O’Reilly disdainfully refers to as “secular progressives”.  Someone needs to tell me what the problem is with the concept of being a secular progressive- I rather like being one!  Besides aren’t we told that the government of Iran is evil- a government that is decidely conservative and religious?

3. The French dislike war.  American conservatives like to have a little swagger to their walk and have that “bring it on” attitude of President George W. Bush. Anyone that doesn’t share that macho spirit must be a wuss!

My final word on this is that conservative Americans need to realize the similarity between the tripartite motto “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “liberté, égalité, fraternité”. Happy Bastille Day!


Responses

  1. You realize, of course, that this has nothing to do with anything since none of these people know and damned thing about WWII except that most conservatives thought it would have been okay to let Hitler take over Europe. The people you’re talking about have spent the last six years supporting fascism. They wipe their ass with the Constitution. They hate New York and the statue in the harbor, too.

  2. I had the pleasure of having Bastille Day lunch in San Francisco yesterday at — bien sur! — Cafe Bastille. The table next to us was a group of four French people from Evian-les-Bains, doing a tour of the Western U.S. They loved what they saw, and were clearly enjoying the best of what America has to offer: everything from the majesty of the Grand Canyon to the insanity of Las Vegas. They didn’t sit at home and decide that because they hate George Bush, they wouldn’t set foot in America — they recognize that our government is but a small part of who we are and what we’re about. So how come conservative America can’t make this leap of logic?

  3. I have not seen many comments from the average Frenchman that show they like the American people. Most of what I see on the internet, periodicals and newpapers tend to show the French think of us as backwater imbeciles. I am not a conservative and I think the Iraq war is a disaster, but I believe that the French would dislike us even if we had not invaded Iraq. I was born in 1941 and have been insulted by the French since Charles DeGaulle went on his anti-American rampage in the 1950’s. Do I dislike the French? I guess I like them as much as they like us.

  4. I’m a conservative (note the lower case c), and I certainly do not hate the French. They were very polite directing this lost Cuban tourist in Biarritz. Lovely country and a lovely language! (but not better than Spanish, of course….)

  5. I’m French, I always lived here in France and I’m always amused when I see, hear or read Americans pretending that France is a liberal country. In fact, France is the most conservative country in Western Europe and is far less liberal than the US on most social issues (like gay rights, abortion etc). Here’s a few facts:

    Did you know that:
    – France was the last Western European country to stop public executions (French authorities decided to carry executions in prisons instead of making them public only a few years before WW2)
    – France was the last country in Western Europe to abolish the death penalty and to stop executions (only in 1981, when Germany, Britain, Italy etc abolished it decades and decades before)
    – the French government abolished open censorship of the media only in the 70’s
    – France was the last democratic state to allow independent radio stations and independent TV channels (they were made legal only in the 70’s and 80’s!)
    – France was the last European power to give independence to its colonies, often after bloody wars and massacres of the indegenous populations (see Algeria!)
    – France was the last absolute monarchy in Western Europe, with very few reforms before the Revolution (compare this to Britain and the US!)
    – France allowed abortion only in 1974, decades after Britain did
    – France still allows abortion only in the first 12 weeks (compare to Britain and the US who allow elective abortion up to 24 weeks, if not more!) – and abortions after 12 weeks in France can only performed if the fetus has developed a serious condition, and this has to be proved by a panel of State-appointed physicians)
    – Pornographic materials were made legal in France only in the middle of the 70’s
    – France does not allow gay marriage and adoption by same-sex parents (compare with the Netherlands or Catholic Spain, or Canada or some US States!)
    – During WW2, French authorities actively helped Nazi Germany in deporting Jews to extermination camps in Poland, and organized massive antisemitic campaigns, unheard of in many other Western countries (even in most of those who were under German occupation)
    – the Western country with the highest percentage of Muslims in its population is France (about 6 to 10%) – most of these Muslims are very conservative and have influence on French culture
    – it is more difficult than in the US or in the UK to find a job in France if you are young, a woman or a person from a non-White ethnic background
    – Jean-Marie Le Pen (from the far-right party FN, who made several antisemitic comments, used torture as a soldier during the war in Algeria, and who was tried for Holocaust denial) made more than 17% of the popular vote in 2002, and always more than 11% since 1995; more than 33% of French in polls said they agree with his ideas…

    See, you still think this is a liberal country…

  6. And, I forgot something: France has one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world (and you should see how immigrants are seen by the French and how they’re depicted on French TV and by French politicians (last President J.Chirac spoke about “the odor and the noise” of immigrant workers in France, adding that “with the odor and the noise, it’s no doubt that the French worker next door becomes crazy”… this would be considered racist and very offensive in the US.

  7. the “liberals’ paradise” is San Francisco and NY, clearly not Paris!


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