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The Times' love letter to France

By Bernard Chapin
web posted June 14, 2004

In the hopes of bettering international relations, or perhaps as a means of inspiring Parisian clerks and waiters from being as rude to him on his next visit to the Left Bank, Roger Cohen of The New York Times' decided to write a submissive column called "France Says, Love the U.S., Hate Its Chief." A more accurate would be, "Hate the US, Hate Bush but envy France." His subliminal message to the Chirac clique is "How dare our peasants defy you again!"

The writer begins by mentioning that the president's trip to France in honor of D-Day has brought about a strange phenomenon in French public opinion as they have realized that even though they despise George W. Bush they still somewhat approve of America on the whole. He provides us with a highly comical summary of their cognitive dissidence:

"The idea is very French. It is conceptual. It is subtle. It is intellectually pleasing. It projects the notion that France knows better than America what America really is or really should be. It harks back to the idea France shares with America: that the countries embody some eternal values and have a mission to export them to all mankind."

Okay, let's make it easy and begin with the second sentence. What is very conceptual about the French? Their self-absorption? Their mistake of believing they are as influential in 2004 as they were in 1807? Their lust for Jerry Lewis? Or maybe it's the way their fans have confused the works of a few philosophers and artists with being representative of the habits of an entire nation. This is all balderdash. There's nothing conceptual about the French. Here's something they'd comprehend if they truly were conceptual, "We're yesterday's news and now we're finished. Let's copy the American's economic practices and become more successful." Now such observations would truly qualify them as being abstract and practical at the same time which is why they will never make them. Instead, they'll continue to fashion a cult of self-pity and rail on against McDonalds while the Academie francaise purges all the vibrant foreign words from their vocabularies.

Let's turn to his claim of subtlety. I find there to be nothing subtle about the French. They'll refuse all manner of international cooperation with larger powers if they deign them culturally inferior and that's true regardless of whether its in reference to their air space or in negating the contracts they signed with evil, defeated dictators. The real show stopper in the above quotation is "intellectually pleasing." That's a hoot. Did he really mean "intellectually disturbing?" Believe me, there's zero to please one about this subregion of the European continent. They have accomplished little since the First World War. Since they are merely a historical asterisk, why would we remotely care what they think America should be like? With their disaffected Muslims becoming radicalized in the suburbs around their biggest cities, there is little doubt that France itself may soon become something far different than what they have been. Who cares about their opinions? Pick them up with the tongs and turn them over because they're done.

He then states that just as Vichy France was intrinsically a French product, George W. Bush is also reflective of a large body of souls who are unequivocally American. Although, this acknowledgement in no way prevents the author from being contemptuous of Bush's constituency, "[t]his America believes it is doing God's will in fighting for freedom. It equates pacifism with decline. It supports the death penalty, low taxes and the right to bear arms. It is skeptical of subtle arguments, wondering what they really mean."

By definition, doesn't a foreign policy that is based on pacifism automatically result in decline? How could it not? If we failed to defend our geographical integrity then we could not possibly remain a free people and a free nation. We would quickly fall under the rule of another entity who unquestionably would equate social justice with "raping and pillaging." Therefore, we, as opposed to the Timesian Franco-fetishists, are the part of the country that believes in self-preservation (and they wonder indignantly why people question their patriotism).

Next comes God, whenever you read anything about the Lord in this newspaper you can be pretty sure that He'll be used as a synonym with words "ignorant, Paleolithic" or "unenlightened." In this case, we are treated to a straw man assault as the great majority of believers I know do not confuse the many actions of the American government with being the Lord's will, yet it would require considerably more "nuance" than Mr. Cohen is capable of processing. Sometimes we do wonderful things for humanity, which I think–as opposed to know–could please the Lord, but sometimes, alas, we do not. In the future, the editorialist should not be so skeptical of subtle arguments as I'll be happy to let him know, via email, exactly what they mean.

As for "low taxes," they are the cornerstone of all freedom as without economic freedom it is very difficult to preserve one's political rights. Who doesn't quiver when they hear The Wall Street Journal's mantra, "free people and free markets?" Amen! Well, certainly Mr. Cohen might not agree with my veneration of that phrase, but you wonder what part he'd object to more, the free market or the free people. If he were France, it would be to the free market. The Index of Economic Freedom regards France as being "mostly Free," whereas we, as we are in all areas when compared to the Gauls, are "Free" without qualification. In fact, France is one of the most socialistic countries in the entire EU, as the index notes:

"Unlike the other members of the European Union, France has resisted pressure to deregulate its economy. According to the U.S. Department of State, ‘Although some reforms have been implemented to address structural rigidities in the labor market, experts question whether unemployment will drop below the presumed structural rate of unemployment, estimated at 8.5 percent, absent further significant liberalization.'"

Anyway, there is no reason American citizens should pay our bulbous state more of our precious dollars than we already do. The federal government should just suck it up and figure out a way to get by on $2.35 trillion a year. Besides, this writer obviously knows very little about the workings of bureaucracy if he thinks, after a certain point, his taxes do much to enhance the quality of people's lives. More likely, increased taxes will debase millions as their employers find that they no longer have the cash on hand to pay their employees, but then again, why should he care? He and The NYT will always have Paris.

Then we have the "please take me with you little Frenchman" moment in our charade as Cohen gloats:

"Of course, there is another big slice of America, the one closer to the French idea of the American soul, that loathes Mr. Bush. This America is appalled by the war in Iraq, unsurprised by untruths used to justify war and worried about a leader who so regularly invokes the will of the Almighty. It is disdainful of the president's stumbling locution, angered by the detentions without counsel or trial in Guantánamo and elsewhere, aghast at the notion that the country may just face four more years with Mr. Bush."

Appalled at the price of rental units in Manhattan, appalled by the way life refuses to follow theory, appalled at the way a man is looked down upon when he wears mascara, appalled, oh, sorry, I was rolling with him for a moment there.

Notice how these people are outraged by Mr. Bush's attempt to rid the world of a mass murderer but are never sickened by the crimes the mass murderer commits. They feel tremendous sympathy for the terrorists we intern but none for the individuals who jumped off of towers to a horrible death or ended up being filmed as their heads were sawed off. Victims are beyond their sympathy as there is not enough nuance in being burned alive for them to notice, but the villains, well, these are the persons they wish to molly-coddle and protect. Our political left and the French truly are as one. Perhaps we should call this union of androgynous rebel and socialist machine: "Far from thinking."

How about the "disdainful of stumbling locution" part? That's fantastic. Isn't that what its all about anyway? Bush doesn't talk like them. He's a hick in their opinion, and unlike Jimmy Carter, his speech pattern don't contain malaisic banter which can paralyze our nation. To the NYT, rural types can only be tolerated if they endorse the Democratic platform.

Lastly, this business of the Almighty, I am sure that they don't feel the same condescending vibe about Him every time their quarters and dimes make a purchase and pronounce to the world their trust in God. Furthermore, this disdain for religion is completely hypocritical as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's appealed to the Lord repeatedly in his speeches and is considered by the left as one of our greatest presidents.

My message to Mr. Cohen is that all I need to know about the French I learned from Shakespeare (and in kindergarten), "Brave death by speaking, whether he will or no; Imagine him a Frenchman and thy foe." We all would be wise to remember the bard when he also wrote, "Submission, dauphin! 'tis a mere French word."

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at bchapafl@hotmail.com.

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