Sunday, March 23, 2003

Making Peace

Not everyone is convinced that this will be a very short and efficient war of liberation, followed by a pleasant period of adjustment when we get to love each other and get to know each other, the U.S. and Iraq, I mean. I was over reading the craziness on Craigs List and came across this anonymous cynic who's keeping score.
War Aside, How do we deal with the French?
Tom Friedman is writing from Paris. I emphaticaly agree that Chirac and Villepin got intoxicated from their flash of celebrity, and they seriously overplayed their hand. The breach between our two cultures is not absolute, but it's powerful enough and will affect our interactions with the French in the next few years. This is not intended as French bashing, but an observation about what I perceive to be the nature of American and French cultural interchange. Let's compare a few things we have in common with the French. Wine. It's a multi-billion dollar industry in both countries. California wines are consistently equal to in quality and better in value than French wines. You can buy any French wine available for sale in California and most of the U.S. You can't, however, as freely buy California wines in France. Sometimes the rarity of American and other foreign wines is caused by a very hostile government policy towards imports. France is very protective of French industry. However, just as often, no market is created because the French just know that no one is able to do what the French do better than the French. So why bother? And they say this with such annoyance that you just want to slap them.

Okay, take cheese. We can do anything they can do, and we can do it better. They have, however, come up with some pretty fancy names for them. Although they dispute the idea that there can be a common name for something in the minds of others. We know better. We drink champagne, eat roquefort dressing, xerox copies, and drink coke. The French guard their words with a passion that misses the point. In America, "roquefort" means the creamy, mayonaisey yuck that has blue cheese chunks in it. To the French it means a rich, double-creme with ripened veins of mold running through it. They have actually used our laws against us in an attempt to get Americans to stop using it incorrectly. Just ask watch the way any 19 year old waiter reacts when you ask him if he has any roquefort dressing. "No, but we got blue cheese," he will correctly responds. And look at how they say "blue" in blue cheese: bleu like its something awful you have to get off your tongue. Bleu! Bleu! Bleu! They may very well win the battle--we won't call it roquefort dressing--but lose the war: hey look the blue cheese from Sonoma County is California won all these blind tasting tests and costs half as much as that French shit. That kind of win the battle, lose the war.

So what do we know about the French from all of this? That they're arrogant because they do a couple of things real well, forgetting to remember the things they have messed up (I'll just say Peugeot and let it go, okay?). And worse yet. They're calling us Arrogant. I don't think so. Even if it were true, who the fuck are they to be calling us arrogant? They gave the word any possible meaning it has in our language, and those high heels of yours just don't fit us, Cinderella Villepin. Arrogant? Unilateral? In the now famous words of one of America's finest cultural icons, M. Villepin? M. Chirac? "Eat my shorts!" (-Bart Simpson)
Phase Two: The Enemy Fights Back
We've listened for weeks now to The War's proponents telling us how this war would be fought and blithely reminding us that all war is hell and this one would be no different, somehow we got a subliminal reassurance that it would be a cakewalk. We had "Sturm und Drang," no, that's something else. Same school of writing, different somehow. Oh, yeah, we have "Shock and Awe." Yeah, that's it. Meanwhile, Baghdad has been duck, stay covered, pop up behind them and wreck havoc. Marines may be hell to face, so wait for the supply guys. It's pretty low tech but devastating on the news. Now, I have a tremendous level of faith in our military forces. I have no faith in the willingness of the American public to stay with this war if it goes more than a month. A month, hell! If it goes two weeks there'll be a significant turnaround in American public opinion. Will the President then stay his course? This ain't President Clinton. However, remember, America invented Clinton. He didn't teach us fickleness, he learned it from us.