Jewish World Review Feb. 19, 2003 / 17 Adar I, 5763
Yanking the Franks
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | A lot of Americans are unhappy with France. In fact, there is so much France-bashing going on in the U.S. media that even the French media have deigned to take notice. The august Le Monde griped about "a certain element of the American press" slinging crude Gallic stereotypes, to wit: "We French are pusillanimous, 'Munichized' to the bottom of our souls, habitually venal, reliably anti-Semitic, and, it goes without saying, relentlessly anti-American. And let's not forget: we are also 'old.'"
The New York Post ordered the world's most easily enraged columnist, Steve Dunleavy, to climb into his dudgeon, zip over to Omaha Beach and gnash his teeth over how those lily-livered frog-gulpers have forsaken the fallen American boys who pulled their lardons out of the feu not once but TWICE, for cryin' out loud.
"I want to kick the collective butts of France," wrote Steve, quickly working himself into a foaming, mentholated lather. "These kids died to save the French from a tyrant named Adolf Hitler. And now, as more American kids are poised to fight and die to save the world from an equally vile tyrant, Saddam Hussein, where are the French? Hiding. Chickening out. Proclaiming, Vive les wimps!"
Clandestine proclaimers! Insults this cruel cannot be allowed to stand. It is time for Media Person -- champion of the underdog, challenger of the conventional wisdom, puncturer of Australian gasbags and part-time Francophile -- to rebut the lazy thinking and thoughtless laziness that so often replace lucid analysis in the media. Here then, the most commonly heard anti-French canards and the irrefutable, fact-oriented Big Truths that will instantly demolish them:
The French are cowards: Patently ridiculous. No one who has ever walked into a French hotel and been told by a desk clerk with impeccable diction, sarcastic posture and the confidence of Charles de Gaulle that there is no record of the reservation you made (and confirmed twice in writing) could possibly make such a preposterous charge.
The French are poor soldiers whose most effectual combat maneuver is surrender: OK, granted, the French military didn't have a great 20th century. But only because they kept making the mistake of fighting the Germans. Put them against the Italians, and you might have had a very different won-lost record. But what a 19th! Has the world forgotten the magnificent Corsican dwarf with one hand habitually thrust inside his overcoat for reasons unknown who founded an early version of the European Union by simply conquering all the other Europeans? Going even further back, there was Joan of Arc, a mere slip of a girl who defeated mighty English armies while clad in rusty iron petticoats. And let's not forget about the Three Musketeers, either! Could those boys thrust an epee, or what? (Though why they never used their muskets is something Media Person never understood.)
The French are ingrates: Nonsense. They are very polite people and go around saying merci beaucoup all the time. Of course, they mainly say it to each other, but still they are polite little beggars. As far as thanking us for WWII, hey, on liberation day, every French girl was ordered to kiss all GIs, even ugly ones, on the mouth (tongue optional). You think gratitude is eternal? Get off it, already. How long did we keep thanking them for saving us from the Brits?
The French are anti-Semitic: Well, sure, but who isn't? As a lifelong Semite, Media Person knows that all you have to do is kick a man in the belly, curse his mother and slice off a finger or two to quickly uncover the latent anti-Semitism simmering beneath his deceitful, smiling exterior. Yes, France has had notorious episodes of anti-Semitism in the past, such as the Dreyfus Affair, with its melodramatic tearing off of epaulets, but at least the case had a happy ending. And then, of course, there was their rather embarrassing behavior during that unpleasant occupation business just before the kissing of the GIs. But now Paris has the Marais, and any country with a Jewish neighborhood that doesn't have walls around it with armed guards posted on them can't be much more than slightly anti-Semitic at most.
The French eat snails: Totally false. The French breed and cook snails, yes, but only to serve to credulous tourists, who believe them to be a French delicacy and want to seem open to new experience. To verify this, next time you order escargot (which literally translates as "sucker grub") in a French restaurant, watch carefully out of the corner of your eye and you'll see the staff gathering in a corner, pointing at you and snickering.
The French find Jerry Lewis funny: First of all, no Frenchman will admit to it, and Media Person has closely questioned hundreds. Even when you point out that Lewis was inducted into the Legion of Honor, these citizens will say, "Perhaps eez some ozzer French person who enjoys Jer-ree Lewees, but me, non, m'sieur, I despise ze man, and I laugh nevair at hees stupeed American antics, rest assured."