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Anti-American or Anti-French?   (December 11, 2005)

My entry of December 9 on French anti-Americanism drew a very thoughtful and thought-provoking 3,480-word response from a widely traveled French citizen currently working in England, Christophe Coindy. (The link takes you to Christophe's blog.) I believe his comments are well worth reading:
I would like to makes some comments about your last post. I am a Frenchman living in England. I have always been supportive of the US; I have worked for US companies and always enjoyed it. We have numerous American friends here in England. I have also lived most of my youth abroad; in fact like you (from what I understand in previous posts in your blog) my family is a mix; a mix between French from Europe (Caucasian) and Caribbean origins, mixing Chinese/Vietnamese, Amazonian Indian, and African blood.

As I mentioned I have lived a number of years in the Caribbean Island, African and Europe. I have visited the US (East Coast) and Canada a number of times for tourism and business. I believe I have a balanced view and approach on both countries.

The reason I am writing to you is because I don't understand the French bashing since the run-up to the Iraq War and also because I don't believe the description you have made of the "anti-American" feeling in France is accurate.

I am interested because I don't understand the "french bashing" going on and I am even more surprised by your article. I have always consider America as friendly and I am under the feeling was that there is more an "anti-french" than an "anti-American" feeling.

I don't believe that there is a hatred and Anti-Americanism in France. There is however a dislike of the unilateral approach of foreign policy of the Bush administration.

We are not taught to dislike Americans in schools or in family. Never heard or never saw that, whether in my family or friends or read anything like that in any newspaper or any books.

On the other hand, I think there is a general feeling of suspicious and anti-Bush administration policies (like the refusal to sign Kyoto treaty and the willingness to shun international institutions in major international political events like the War in Iraq by some or most of the current administration) although some French political figures totally support the war in Iraq (usually the right wing) but I agree, it is the minority.

But on the other hand, in America, for example there was in the run-up to the war, a boycott of french products, a lot of political personalities like General Schwarzkopf calling French many names, renaming French Fries to Freedom Fries....

Do you remember General Schwarzkopf saying on main TV screens that going to war with France is like hunting with an "accordion" -basically useless. (which is probably true) How many US political figures called the French cowards or criticized us because American soldiers died for France and now that America needed France, France was not willing to help.

Yet you always hear about French-Bashing... Why? (No Russian bashing, no German bashing...) In my humble view, France seems to always take the flak ;-) Now I don't want to play the victim!
Christophe also took me to task for certain indulgences in hyperbole--he said he has seen minority mayors speaking on French TV, so it's simply not true that there are no minority mayors in France. He had a number of other questions about data and comparisons with the U.S.--all good points which highlight the long history and complexity of U.S.-French relations. (I have noted in a previous entry that the U.S. only won our War of Independence because the French fleet blockaded the British Army at Yorktown.)

I must confess to failing one key journalistic requirement, which is to separate one's opinion from the source. I should have more clearly attributed "pathological hatred" to the source material, rather than allow the implication that such a view was my own. It is not. I also should have stated that I had no verifiable source for the data about French mayors. I have tried to find some information on minority representation of French elected officials, but without success--largely due to the fact that the French government does not collect data based on ethnic categories.

Other numbers used in the entry are backed up by other sources: I used "10 million" as the total number of minority residents in France; Business Week sets the number of immigrants and their children at 9.8 million, or roughly 16% of the French population of 60 million.

Although official statistics are not available by ethnicity, I found nothing to support the view that minorities in France are proportionately represented in government, either appointed or elected, i.e. that 16% of elected officials are immigrants or their offspring. Needless to say, the U.S. does not have a sterling record of minority representation, either, but certainly some progress has been made, especially at the city, county and state levels.

Christophe went on to comment on other topics, but for now I would like to return to his excellent points about rabid anti-French sentiment in the U.S. Perhaps the real vehemence, he is suggesting, is in the other direction, a possibility I will explore in my next entry.

(For those interested in Islam in France, here is a link to an excellent essay on the subject, excerpted from the book Muslims in the West, from Sojourners to Citizens, 2002 Oxford University Press.)

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copyright © 2005 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

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