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Ithaca: America’s Most Embarrassing City? By: Jamie Weinstein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, April 28, 2003

In some circles the mere utterance of the terms “France” or “Chirac” are enough to elicit a contemptuous chuckle. A couple of weeks ago I went to a conference in Washington, D.C. put on by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobby that supports a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. The main event of the conference was a huge dinner attended by all types of dignitaries. While listening to AIPAC officials announce all the big shots at the event—over half of the Senate and the House attended—they mentioned the French Ambassador to the United States. Of the several hundred dignitaries, the French Ambassador was the only dignitary to receive boos from the audience. In this time where France is the bud of countless jokes and America is distancing itself from its not-so-great ally, activists in the town of Ithaca and the Cornell French Studies program are trying to ingratiate themselves with and show support for this shameless country in Old Europe.

Yes, coming April 30th to Ithaca is Franco-Ithacan Friendship Day. To many Ithacans, this will be a day to show support for a country that tried to stand in the way of the liberation of the Iraqi people and the disarmament of the dangerous Iraqi regime. Ithacans will celebrate the “great” French culture—the same “great” culture mind you that reveres American comedian Jerry Lewis—and indulge in delightful French pastries. While many Americans are boycotting French wine, you better believe that this festival will serve nothing other than Bordeaux’s cheapest. To most Americans like myself, though, this event is completely insulting and just adds to the long list of other absurdities that keeps Ithaca in the running year after year for America’s most embarrassing city.

Paul Glover, one of the leaders of Ithaca’s Green party and a main organizers of the festival, gave his reasoning for putting together the French fest in the Ithaca Times: "Cultural war is essential preparation for groundwork and forestalling further illegal invasions requires us to confront cultural messages of the anti-French kind.” First off, this war was not an illegal invasion. Secondly, I believe it is time for someone to inform Mr. Glover on why ill-feelings towards France are totally justified.

Recently, of course, the French government actively tried to sabotage U.S. efforts to defend the world from the Iraqi threat. It wasn’t enough for Jacques Chirac to merely state the French opinion on the situation, an opinion that would carry no weight if it were not for the charity of America and Britain back in 1945 when the U.N. was formed, but the French Prime Minister actually went from country to country trying to undermine the U.S. Some find France’s duplicity and disingenuousness offensive. Before the war began, the French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said this on ABC’s This Week: "Do you want me to tell you, really, what France is worried about? How many boys, American boys, are going to die in Iraq." Such an audacious attempt to pretend that France’s motivation in opposing the war lay not in its financial interests and not in its jealously of American power, but rather for its concern for the well-being of our soldiers is simply and utterly disgusting. Now after shedding no blood liberating Iraq, France is lobbying for an important role in post war reconstruction, something that I find simply unbelievable. Despite all this, Ithaca activists and the Cornell French Studies program want to show solidarity with such a country.

The truth is I could go on and on about why such a festival is offensive. I could discuss how in 1986 the French would not let us fly over their airspace to retaliate against Qadhafi's Libya for a terrorist attack that killed an American or how much of French society is becoming overtly anti-Semitic or how the French government smugly criticizes countries like the U.S. and Israel for supposedly breaking International Law yet opens its doors for such despotic thugs like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Yes, France may be an ally, but it is not a good one. And this festival celebrating France at a time when France tried to stab America in the back is sickening.

The fact that Mr. Glover is organizing such an outrageous festival is not surprising though. On a far left list serve, Mr. Glover posted a letter about the upcoming Franco-Ithacan Friendship Day. The letter contained the following text: “150,000 Moroccans (French-speaking) marched last week chanting ‘Suicide bombing is the path to liberation.’ We want to make sure they know Ithaca is against the war.” That’s right. Mr. Glover doesn’t want to condemn such vile statements; he wants to communicate to these terroristic thugs that Ithaca agrees with them and like them oppose the war. By not condemning these statements by the French speaking Moroccans, Mr. Glover is providing at the very least passive support for them. As a temporary member of Ithacan community, I repudiate Mr. Glover's sentiments. Anyone who supports terrorism, even passive support, is disgraceful in my opinion.

The Cornell French Studies people and the Ithaca townies organizing the rally should be embarrassed. France is not a country to look up to or celebrate. In this unabashedly ultra-liberal town and on this undeniably liberal campus turnout for this French fest will unfortunately probably be very high. Even more unfortunate is that some of those who attend will probably agree with the unbelievably outrageous statements that Mr. Glover posted on the list serve.

Speaking to the Ithaca Times, Tompkins County Republicans Chairman Mark Finkelstein summed up the situation perfectly: “I don't think the people of Iraq are going to be throwing a French festival any time soon...If it was up to the French, (the Iraqis) would still be suffering under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein." So true. It is not to France that Iraqis owe their freedom, but to the United States and its coalition allies. Here is an interesting question, though, that I would like to ask Mr. Glover and the others who are organizaing the French fest: "Would you ever consider throwing a festival celebrating the greatnesss that is America?" Probably not!

Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.

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