Friday, November 27, 2009

Café Americain

The commentary at this post by Wangkon at The Marmot's Hole reminds me of something I've long thought: the irrational, knee-jerk hatred some Americans feel toward France and the French is eerily parallel to the irrational, knee-jerk hatred some Koreans feel toward America and Americans.

I happen to like France, and maybe that clouded my judgement a bit, but none of the stereotypes we often hear about France or the French played out when I was there. My two friends from Texas felt the same. I've been to France only once, and I stayed for about three or four days, but I was not treated rudely by anyone. People were very nice, and I had a lovely time. I see more dog poop on the street in my daily jog through my part of (upscale) Honolulu than I did the entire time I was in Paris. (And I'd like to post a picture from my trip to France, but my camera was stolen while I was in London.)

Really, I think that France-bashers in America are thankless prigs who do not understand their own history, much less the value of someone not playing yes-man to your adventurism, or their right to do so.

Last year, at a gas station near the eastern entrance to Zion National Park, I was in line to pay for my petrol when I overheard the discussion between the customer ahead of me and the clerk who owned the place. The customer asked how the owner liked running the gas station with all the tourists from all over the place coming in (a positive or neutral thing, judging by the tone), and the owner replied that it was great, she liked meeting people from all over — except the French, who she would refuse to serve if they walked into her store.

In hindsight, I probably should have told the owner a thing or two, but I didn't. I considered momentarily adopting a faux French accent (not that I look at all French) and telling her all about Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier Lafayette, not to mention the Statue of Liberty, and then asking her, excuzez-moi, if she's an "Americain" or an "Americain't." Alas, I was in a hurry, and my aunt was with me and she has no patience for that kind of thing.

Happy Thanksgiving. Say a word of gratitude for some dead French soldiers if giving thanks for being in the US is on your list.

Merci. Je tiens à vous exprimer ma gratitude. Je vous remercie de tout cœur.

[above: He and his men risked their lives to help America become independent. And now his people are treated like English teachers.]


  1. Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. L'etat, c'est moi. C'est tout de mon Francais.

    Je deteste les personnes qui parlent le Francais parce que on ont les odeours horrifique, on magent beaucoup de la fromage et on parlent en Francais comme les grenouilles.

  2. Hat tip? I linked to the bloody post!

    But I will edit a credit for you.

  3. Adeel, vague memories of four years of middle and high school French has allowed me to muddle through all of that except the very last word.

    Qu'est-ce que c'est, les grenouilles?

  4. Frogs. My six years beat your four years! Learning French in school and having French-language requirements for many jobs allows me to relate to Koreans who, until they talk to me, have never spoken English before. I spoke French for the first time ever this September when I went to Paris.

  5. Kushibo,

    Is the comparison between American ingratitude toward France and Korean ingratitude toward the U.S. valid? The U.S. more than repaid its debt when it liberated France from the Nazis. Besides, 1780s is a really really long time ago! :)

  6. I don't mean to compare whether ingratitude is justified or not (though I would add that whether one can make the valid argument that the debt has been paid, a lot of Americans have forgotten the French contribution altogether).

    Rather, I'm just trying to point out the similarity in kind (though not necessarily degree) of that type of knee-jerk anti-French sentiment among those people with that type of anti-American sentiment among those people. "Freedom fries"? That had me embarrassed as an American.

    I might also point out that among some of the holders of anti-American sentiment, they wouldn't call it ingratitude because they (in their narrative) see nothing to thank America for vis-à-vis acquiescing to Japan's takeover of Korea in order to secure their own grip on the Philippines, calling on Koreans and other occupied peoples to throw off their shackles after WWI but then offering no support, dividing the country into two unsustainable halves, backing a killer as the leader, bombing the sh¡t out of everything, raping villagers on the side, backing more dictators, and then demanding extraterritoriality for its occupying soldiers.

    What's there to be thankful about that when you believe that Korea would have been better off unified under one leader, even if it was a communist one, especially if you believe that the rise of Kim Ilsung and his regime occurred only because of American opposition of the southern half.

    Of course, none of this is my belief in the slightest.


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