Maybe you’re old enough to remember that when George W. Bush decided the world should invade Iraq not everyone in the world wanted to follow. By which I mean most didn’t but as usual in Republican politics, only the right opinions are deemed to matter. (I trust you see what I did there.)
Anyway, a bunch of countries declined the American president’s invitation to engage in mayhem and bloodshed for reasons that appeared badly stretched at best and otherwise quite oily. In particular, the French and — hi! — Canadians said thanks, but no thanks.
Mind you, a bunch of Americans were also opposed to the invasion of Iraq. But in addition to the aforementioned opinion segregation thing, there was another compelling dynamic at play. To wit, why bother with subtleties when you can insult entire food groups and animals?
In some parts of the country, notably the part of North Carolina I enjoyed, to use the term liberally, losing golf balls in, French people were referred to as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” a term that was invented in the mid-1990s to describe people who surrender quickly even though in point of fact the French don’t. I don’t recommend trying your luck against any one of their law enforcement services.
To be fair the term is also used to describe people who eat a lot of cheese, not that Americans don’t, but whatever. The monkeys nobody really knows about. For the poetry I guess, not that it brings you anywhere close to the iambic pentameter. Le sigh.
In parts of America where I was spending time in during those lovely months between the botched UN presentation and the premature Mission Accomplished debacle, people like me were gratuitously insulted just because of our language and taste in morbier.
On the golf course where I routinely lost my temper slicing drives into the gator pond, they didn’t sell French fries. They only had Freedom fries. Ah, now the souvenirs are flooding in. As a Canadian who speaks French, and who — comble de l’horreur — eats fries with mayo not ketchup, I did not feel especially welcome.
I went anyway, and gamely ordered Freedom fries in my thickest French-accented, almost Clouseau-esque English.
Would you believe how fast they apologized to me for their offensive signs? Nothing against French people, you understand. Just a… well… say, Marge, might wanna change the sign, yeah?
I had completely forgotten about this anecdote until I read on the Twitter machine this week that a CBC crew got stuck in the ditch covering the anti-government slash trucker dudes hanging around rural towns outside Ottawa. It’s obviously the fault of the so-called state broadcaster for sending their people in Dodge Caravans, which are unsuited to just about anything media-related except drinking coffee.
But in the ditch they were. And would you know, one of the protesters — wearing a “Defund the CBC” shirt no less — pulled them out with his truck. When he was asked why he’d helped CBC journalists, he replied that he’d never leave anyone stuck in a ditch. The whole thread is worth a read. It’s endearing as all hell.
Go ahead and dab your eyes at the true benevolence of genuinely decent if mistaken people. And engage in a little bit of thinking while you munch on your munster and dip your frites julienne in proper Dutch mayo.
You do know what the lesson is, right? That once people get to know each other face to face, they are much less likely to be jerks to one another.
We should remember that more often.