Jewish World Review March 18, 2003 / 14 Adar II, 5763

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
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Consumer Reports

'Sacre Bleu!' Let Freedom Ring | Dear Rep. Bob Ney:

Sir, I have just one thing to say to you. Bravo.

I hear it was you, in your capacity as chairman of the House Administration Committee, who decided that cafeterias in the House of Representatives will no longer serve - I shudder to type the words - "french" fries and "French" toast. Henceforth, you decreed, those foods are to be known as freedom fries and freedom toast.

Congressman, it is with tears in my eyes, a stirring in my heart, and a fife and drum recording of "Yankee Doodle" playing on my CD player, that I congratulate you for standing up for real American values. If our president wants the United Nations to sanction a war against Iraq, who are those snotty French to disagree? What do they think they are, anyway? Like, a sovereign country or something?

No, Congressman, I think you're on to something here. At a time when Americans have learned to expect little from their elected representatives, you deliver. In this moment of war and economic downturn, you remind us all of what's really important here.

Meaning fried potatoes and egg-battered toast.

My only complaint, sir, is that if you truly want to kick the French out of everyday American life, you haven't gone far enough. What about that famous area down in New Orleans? Shouldn't that now be called the Freedom Quarter? Remember the butler on the old sitcom, "Family Affair"? From now on, shouldn't he be Mr. Freedom? And when you play a passionate game of tonsil hockey with your sweetie, well ... we're going to have to call that a freedom kiss.

Of course, we still have to figure out what to do with that big statue the French dumped in New York Harbor a hundred and some-odd years ago. Sculpted by the Frenchman Bartholdi, engineered by another Frenchy named Eiffel, she was given to the United States as a so-called gesture of friendship from France. Obviously, big mama's got to go.

But wait, there's more. I've been looking through the dictionary, Congressman, and it turns out there must be, like, a dozen words or more in the English language that come directly from France. You must work to change them all. I have a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Champagne? Freedom juice.

Frivolity? Freedom fun.

Garage? Freedom-place-where-you-park-your-car-and-store-your-yard-tools.

There are those, Congressman, who will say that what you've done in the House cafeterias amounts to tedious jingoism disguised in patriotic garb. They will call it idiot symbolism unworthy of a serious legislative body, will say it represents nativism at its worst and most shallow.

When that criticism comes, as you know it will, I trust you will gather yourself in righteous indignation, look your critics dead in the eye and remind them that you are rubber, while they are glue.

Others will probably claim it's unfair to single out the French for this treatment, since they're hardly the only nation opposed to America's policy on Iraq. Indeed, it seems like half the world is. So what about China, Russia and Germany?

Remind these deluded people, Congressman, that, for all their flaws, the people in those countries are not French. While the people of France, albeit through no fault of their own, are.

Be assured, Congressman, that you've done vital work in pushing us further along on the road toward unthinking nationalistic fervor. But as I'm sure you know, you must guard against thoughtfulness and restraint in the march toward that goal. So I urge you, as one patriotic American to another, to continue your campaign along the lines I've outlined.

Yes, I realize that introducing legislation to make all these changes might be time-consuming. However, as evidenced by the time and effort you've already invested in rewriting the menu in the House cafeterias, you obviously have nothing more important to do.

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