June 09, 1997
The results of the last French elections might lead the casual observer to the conclusion that deep differences exist between the good people of America and their Gallic friends. Not only do the French enjoy kissing and touching each other, thus propagating all sorts of germs but, more seriously, they dare to consider free health care and education like some kind of inalienable rights; and their idea of the pursuit of happiness is to spend six weeks on the beach or the Alpine slopes and retire at 55. Furthermore, they eat high-cholesterol food without any sign of obesity, do not carry guns (no correlation whatsoever with their low crime rates, of course) but smoke their Gitanes and Gauloises to death, refuse globalization and adaptation and embrace contrariness.
However, the French have much more in common with their American siblings, beside cheese and baguette, jeans and cosmetics, a shared history and a highly developed sense of righteousness (also known as chauvinism). Here is an example among many: The inclination of a sizable minority of the respective people to blame everybody but themselves, particularly immigrants, foreigners, homosexuals and Jews (add Blacks, in America) for all the ills -- real or not, of the day.
In France, this current of opinion is represented by a political party, the National Front, and his leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Le Pen, a genuine demagogue, advocates sending all the foreigners back to their country of origin so that France may get back to full employment and greatness. In his everything-but-Cartesian mind a foreigner is anyone who is not French. Arab immigrants are not French; therefore they are foreigners. Jews are international, therefore foreigners, hence not French. Homosexuals are anti-Christ, undoubtedly the creation of a Jewish conspiracy, hence illegal aliens. (Amazing what logic can achieve with the help of syllogisms!) In America, perhaps thanks to the existence of the ACLU and the ADL, this current of opinion is slightly better disguised; but it is nonetheless well represented by various officeholders, office seekers and partisans, each with their own little twists, such as Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, Jesse Helms, and, once blacks are factored in, myriad white supremacists. On both sides of the Atlantic they are the champions of the lowest common denominator.
Not a commonality to be proud of, I am afraid.