United States and French Relationship
Freedom fries and Chanel boycotts should not be dismissed as isolated and juvenile posturing on the part of the American people. Rather, the visceral reaction to French reluctance to follow the Bush administration into Iraq should be addressed as a substantive and not simply cosmetic distrust Americans share of the French.
In France, the “renegade cowboy” George W. Bush is anathema to a country more comfortable with shades of gray than the black and white lenses with which the United States views the world. The US and France rarely see eye to eye on cultural and political issues simply because we do not share the same world view.
American eyes view the “outside” a bit differently than the French and this is at the root of most foreign policy differences. The Hobbesian view of man, largely based on Judeo-Christian beliefs that led to the famous “axis of evil” appellation, grates French ears. Further, while most French nationals speak a foreign language, travel extensively, and consider themselves global citizens (but alas, are not tous américains), recent allegations that John Kerry “looks French” and even speaks the language have reminded us all that antipathy towards the French and xenophobia persist. Alain de Chalvron of France 2 explains, “for us, to speak any other language and have an open view of the world, for a President, should be a plus” (Kurlantzick).
In France, while Michael Moore is heralded at Cannes for his controversial documentary deploring gun violence in the US, he is maligned as anti-American on US soil. Further, while most Americans view McDonalds as a great symbol of economic prosperity, its exterior wall is now the tableau of choice for Sorbonne students voicing political statements against the McDonaldization of Europe.
One could argue that this squabbling between to the two nations over Iraq is symptomatic of a more serious disease, that of Europhobia or more specifically Francophobia on this side of the Atlantic. Foreign policy is now a Rorschach test of US/French relations. The French explain that military might is not the answer for Iraq while we in the US hear “We want the US to fail”. The Americans say “We don’t want the Iraqis to be Americans, we want to liberate them”, the French hear “We want the Iraqis to be drinking Coca-Cola, worshipping our God, and submitting to our political power.”
Even in our politically correct culture, it is still okay to hate the French. They hate us, so we hate them. The Economist reports that while two years ago 79% of Americans had a favorable view of France that number is down to 33% this year (June 4 2004). Why?
Qui sont les francais?
• Vain and superficial
The American view of France has remained remarkably stable – and negative. Grandparents refer to les francais as frogs, middle-age parents think of the French as spineless, and our generation imagines the stereotypical signs of...