Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vive le France


Regular readers of this blog (you both know who you are) will no doubt be aware of my fondness of all things concerning the French First Lady.

I am afraid that that fondness does not extend to the rest of France.

I am not anti-French. I have great respect for the Hungarian President of France, Monseur Sarkozy, who is both pro-American and sleeps with a supermodel (how much better does it get than that?). French cooking is wonderful. French civilization is not without its great figures: the Maid of Orleans comes to mind, followed closely by the first Napoleon, who would have been a rival to Julius Caesar if he hadn't been, alas, a battle-addicted sociopath. French cathedrals are without match, and there are too many great French artists to name.

And my wife loves France, speaks fluent French, and has lived there for a lengthy period--and her taste (save in husbands) is impeccable.

Nevertheless, I must admit they do annoy me from time to time.

What admiration for things French I ever had went south in 2001 when, in the middle of a thunderstorm, the French-controlled air station at Butmir, outside of Sarajevo, refused the helicopter in which I was flying permission to land there on an emergency basis, forcing us to fly back to Tuzla. (I *hate* flying in helicopters.)

However, today's news confirms my.... shall we say.... distance from things French:

Some idiot defaced a two ton statue of Sir Winston Churchill on the Champs Elysees by painting his hands red.

On the anniversary of the liberation of Paris by the Allies.... no less!

The enigmatic initials "RH" (Rudolph Hess? Robert Heinlein?) were painted on the plinth.

("Whath a plinth? - A plinth? Ith thum thorta thupport." - Larry Gonick.)

Now, what sort of people would do that to Winston Churchill's image?

Well, France has 65 million people, so the actions of one or two moral morons can't really be held against them all--any more than we can blame all of the French for that incident at the start of the Gulf War, where someone vandalized a British cemetery on French soil. Every country has what Johnny Dangerously called "farking iceholes." Hey, we have our own as well. (Take the Westboro Baptist Church.... please.)

But. That said.

It is true, the French were, ahem, mostly like allies during WWII. Except when they (mostly) quit outright instead of fighting in 1940. And when it was necessary for the Brits to sink the French fleet at Oran. And when the French openly collaborated with the Nazis. And when they rounded up the Jews in Vichy's territory entirely on their own initiative. To tell the truth, the French women who slept with German soldiers, and who were so famously shorn of their hair after the liberation, were hardly the worst: indeed, it was they who were the scapegoats for France's own willing slavery to the Nazis.

But even when they were on our side, they weren't, not really. Charles De Gaulle was the first, maybe only, Frenchman who undestood the tank. But, although the "leader of the Free French," he was far more interested in France than in victory. His long speech given when Paris fell to the Allies was very long on French National Honor and very, very short on thanks to the Tommies and G.I.s whose willingness to fight and sacrifice had far more to do with the Liberation than any French soldiery.

The best observation on the situation was from Churchill himself.

One "Clive" at Free Republic (comment 9) reminds us that Churchill "once said that: 'Of all the crosses I have to bear, the heaviest is the Cross of Lorraine.'"

And: "Roosevelt had once remarked that deGaulle thought that he was Joan of Arc, to which Churchill is said to have replied: 'Yes, but, unfortunately, the Bishop won't let me burn him.'"

So I suppose it's no surprise that Churchill's an object to (probably Communist) hostility. But, hey, this is France. C'est la vie.

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