Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2004 / 14 Tishrei, 5765
Lewis A. Fein
A dollar and a nightmare: France highjacks California's lottery
When I write about France - about its people, its modern history, its shameful collaboration with the Nazis, about its bloody betrayal of the very Jews who stood ready to repel the German onslaught - I must remind myself that individuals exist as just that: people who must be judged by their own actions, not the collective guilt of the cowardice before them. But, as a Californian and as an American, I must also oppose the willful rewarding of immoral behavior and disloyal passion. For French companies may reap enormous profits from an institution as American - in its bravado, fun and intensity - as liberty itself, gambling. Indeed, the California lottery continues to subsidize French appeasement in general, and the ulterior motives of Oberthur Gaming Technologies (more about below) in particular, by granting lucrative contracts to companies that ignore our nation's security and our people's jobs.
Think for a moment about the current political climate in France: wave-upon-wave of Jew hatred envelops the country, targeting innocents for assault, ridicule and even murder. Vandalism strikes Jewish cemeteries, the presumed redoubt of peace and the living's respect for the fallen -- the children slaughtered by the Gestapo, the elderly shot by street thugs, all who wore the yellow star. Yet, the attacks continue; the Israeli flag burns, and bloodthirsty mobs demand the flesh of the Jews. To these acts of senseless rage and demented behavior the French government has impassioned words but empty actions. The hatred grows.
And then there is France's attitude toward Israel, a tiny outpost of freedom engulfed by theocratic killers. The French government has nothing but excuses for the murderous violence unleashed against Israeli citizens - Jew and Arab alike - because, to condemn evil, is to choose sides; defiantly if necessary, courageously always. France prefers the ambiguity of indifference, the right to offend no one and therefore help nobody. The victims of Islamist fury, the families torn asunder by anti-Semitic insanity -- to the innocents taken from us, France is nothing more than a servant of the very murderers it so politely criticizes.
Now consider France's active opposition to the war in Iraq, its blind indifference to the liberation of millions formerly enslaved by a ruthless tyrant. Why, as American soldiers battle insurgents and try to secure the peace (as young men and women sacrifice their lives), would we even think about sharing the fruits of a successful domestic enterprise with some behemoth French corporation? And why would we ever accept - in a period of economic uncertainty and political turmoil - the transfer of dollars into francs, the wholesale removal of jobs from America to Paris? All of which brings us back to California's lottery.
I am myself not much of a gambler, though I wholeheartedly endorse a person's right to purchase - and thus the public's ability to enjoy - simple pleasures that make life less demanding or depressing. However, I cannot abide a system that enriches French corporations (Oberthur included) that owe their allegiance to a government squarely opposed to America's defense of freedom.
This issue is important because California is important, an iconic representation of national trends. From film to fitness and politics to pop culture, California is the great influencer of our shared identity. That brand of collective treasure can only surrender its purpose (and therefore squander its legacy) if it becomes part of - if the lottery's own monies fall into the hands of - gigantic French corporations.
There is also the issue of public trust involved here, the responsibility the United States owes its citizens. Remember: a state lotteries finance those essential services we all need and the least among us covet -- education, healthcare, law enforcement, the very underpinnings of responsive government. Under no circumstances should we export our safety and personal advancement; under no conditions should France upend the sanctity of our democratic experiment.
The French people must reconcile reality with their fictitious exploits of heroism and trust. In these hours of challenge and resolution we should not award - because the recipients have done nothing to deserve - the privileges of a cozy business relationship with the state of this great union. Such action is a gamble not worth taking, with a jackpot devoid of promise.
JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles. Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Lewis A. Fein