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Pardon, They're French By: Julia Gorin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Despite the numerous sound and revealing theories that have been proposed over the past year to explain France's confounding geopolitical behavior, they've all missed something fundamental. The country's less than Western, less than ally-like stances would have seemed far less baffling if we hadn't started from a wrong premise: namely, that France is a member of the civilized world.

Savages naturally gravitate toward savages. France has a natural affinity for any and all of the globe's uncivilized elements. The more primitive, the better to define one's own deviancy down--a deviancy that once prompted Mark Twain to observe, "In certain public indecencies the difference between a dog & a Frenchman is not perceptible." Which would explain why dogs are allowed in restaurants in France.

We are, after all, talking about a nation of lovers and not fighters, where the m.o. is essentially "Give me liberty or give me tyranny. Just so long as I can still have sex." A species that isn't even bipedal most of the time, the French will side with a beastly hegemon if it will prolong their time on this earth for sex by one more day.

But then how does one account for all the charming, elegant French culture--the art, the wine, the cheese, the language, the pastries--those qualities that have made France what to the world appears to be a bulwark of civilization? My uncle, an Israeli composer, answered that question when he invited my husband and me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I answered, "We're low-class. We don't go to museums."

He replied, "We're also low-class. That's why we go to museums."

Connoisseurship is indeed a brilliant cloak for depravity: don a lofty external disguise to mask a degraded internal character. Let's recall that the most dehumanizing event in modern history, the Holocaust--with its massacres and incinerations--was set to classical music and fine dining. Similarly, anything the French do is considered artful, including designing the guillotine, which turned "beheading into an art form," as an ad for a guillotine-style cigar cutter read in a Sky Mall catalogue.

The guillotine artisans, meanwhile, perpetually pride themselves in having abolished the "barbaric" death penalty. Kill their killers they won't, but handing over 10,000 citizens for the gas chambers was never an issue. The French even managed to innovate in animal cruelty. The popular dish Foie Gras is liver from a goose that has been mechanically force-fed to make its liver work overtime and become soft and fatty. And last April, top Paris restaurant La Tour d'Argent celebrated its one millionth eight-week-old duckling to be strangled, crushed and cooked in its own blood, then served with a souvenir numbered tag. On the triumphant day, according to Reuters, owner Claude Terrail remarked, "If for the chef each dish is a work of art, for me, it's...the return of a happy moment....There is nothing more serious than pleasure."

Of all the contemporary diplomats, dignitaries and official ministers of the world, it was debonair French Foreign Affairs Minister Dominique de Villepin who refused to answer the question of whom he would rather see win the war--America or Iraq--but published an 800-page book of poetry. This poet calls Hamas a vital player in any Middle East peace process.

There should be no mystery surrounding France's inability to forgive America for rescuing it from the Gestapo more than half a century ago. Today France is gleeful about its friendship with Germany, recently celebrating 40 years of German-French postwar reconciliation. Franco-German reunification has taken the form of standing together on everything from the Iraq war to forcing economy-crippling policies on current and future EU members. Most romantic, however, is the way this couple has been providing military intelligence to help Khartoum in its jihad of bombing, starving and enslaving the black non-Muslim Southern Sudanese, as well as providing helicopters to help ethnically cleanse this population from oil fields in which a French oil firm and a German engineering corporation are invested.

Always on the opposing side of civilization and on the cutting edge of degenerateness, the French are pioneers in decadence. What was the first place child rapist Roman Polanski thought to go where he could thrive in exile? France, of course, where art redeems all. And who better to land the gig promoting France and French products than Polanski's kindred spirit here, Woody Allen? Such men have called America "puritanical." Which must be the French understanding of the word "moral."

Indeed, many look to Europe, and France in particular, as a place where there are no sexual "hang-ups" like Americans have, where sexuality is more "open" and where they would laugh at the recent Abercrombie and Fitch nude catalogue scandal, because billboard advertisements in Europe leave nothing to the imagination.

In France, even a transit strike is sexual. The following from E! Online on a 2003 release called "Friday Night": "It's a Friday night in Paris in 1995, and Laure has plans to have dinner with her friends before starting the process of moving in with her lover. Once she gets out into the city, however, she soon realizes that the city is in the midst of a transit strike, and she is stuck in a massive traffic jam... and soon finds herself approached by a stranger with an offer to carpool that leads to a night of erotic passion."
Consider the book that was a 2001 bestseller in France, The Sexual Life of Catherine M, (Grove Press), the true-life memoir of Parisian editor and art critic Catherine Millet who "loves penises," as the June 2002 review in Elle Magazine reads.

In one scene, the review reads, "an entire caravan of cars gets lost on its way to an outdoor orgy at a sports stadium." At another point in the book, Millet writes: "'In the bigger orgies...there could be up to about 150 people...and I would take on the organs of around a quarter or a fifth of them in all the available ways.'"

In France, such a book is not categorized as pornographic.

Whenever the American conscience wrestles with the introduction into our society of some risqué new practice, procedure or product--such as lowering the legal age of consent, installing condom machines in schools, approving RU-486 and dispensing it in schools--proponents always reason, "The French have been doing it for years!" Hence, the other name for Syphilis is "The French Disease."

Yet in Paris, where they speak in soft tones and posture demurely, they bristle when the gregarious, high-decibel American approaches with a question, and pretend they don't understand English.
To the French, the sight--or worse--the sound of an American is much more disturbing than a square that fills with she-males who "work the avenue aggressively, ignoring police and the heavy gazes of tourists," as journalist Andrew Baker writes in a 2000 New York Press article about his experience of Paris--a loose city, where you can buy dope and hookers at coffee shops, then get free treatment for VD at the clinic.

Now we know why in America, when someone accidentally uses a four-letter word in the presence of a child, he or she hastily adds, "Pardon my French."

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