Bashing the French has always been popular. American tourists have critized them for being rude or just too cool. But with France's latest stance against the war on Iraq, this practice has developed heightened venom. It is sure to hurt France's tourism industry.
These attacks on all things tres Francais have ranged from the civilized to the silly.
Restaurants pulled French wine off their menus, and there was even a demonstration in which people dumped French wine. (I'm still a little baffled as to what this proves. After all, didn't they already pay the French for this wine?).
At Congress, the Hill cafeteria renamed its French fries and French toast to freedom fries and freedom toast. Last I heard the French weren't getting any royalties on these items. And there are few things more American at this point than deep-fried potatoes. What's next? Nibbling on freedom bread? Breeding freedom poodles? The freedom kiss? Even Howard Stern, a self-proclaimed hater of all things French, mocked the behavior. He suggested we just start calling France, "Freedom."
Government leaders have also proposed bills that take aim at the French. One would prevent France from receiving any U.S. funding in the rebuilding of a post-war Iraq. Another would require warning labels for older French wines that could contain bovine blood. Yet another would encourage Americans to boycott a Paris Air Show, and would ban the Pentagon from participating.
I've even received anti-France hate mail, including the following e-mails:
- "If you keep pushing FRANCE you can remove me from your subscription!" "I will never make another trip to France or buy anything made in France! NEVER NEVER NEVER!"
- "You don't ever have to worry about me going back to France. I will do everything I can to keep from giving them any financial support." And my personal favorite, for its charm...
- "Tell France to go to H---L!"
And these are all from people who clearly were fond of France until recently. These were all replies to the weekly France For Visitors newsletter, which only goes to people who requested. (Incidentally, you can subscribe below).
At the peak of the France-bashing in March 2003, I posted a poll asking people whether they agree with all the recent France-bashing. In less than two days, an overwhelming 89 percent (and more than 200 visitors) of respondents picked the most favorable response, "I'm furious with France! Bash away!".
I'm not even sure why we Americans are so in love with hating the French. Other countries have taken the same stance, but I haven't heard of anyone boycotting sauerkraut or dumping kegs of German beer, and weren't we at war with Germany a couple times?.
And wasn't America founded on the concept that we can all express opinions without fear of reprisal? The French, as well as other countries, have made it clear they don't support war. Others, like the U.S., U.K. and Spain, have said they support military action at some point. There are always people on both sides of the fence when something as emotionally-charged as war is on the horizon.
I know one thing for certain. I sure wouldn't want to be a Frenchman visiting the U.S. And I might have to yank that "I -HEART- PARIS!" sticker off my car.