From “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” to “freedom fries,” politicians love a good catch phrase more than anyone else.
After all, if the old saying that politicians are people who were too ugly to make it in Hollywood is true, it makes perfect sense.
That’s how, overnight, we’ve become stuck in a world where the French have become “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” and French fries have become “freedom fries.”
I understand the urge to make fun of the French – it is healthy and natural.
But lately it has turned into something different.
Something altogether stupid, and even worse, something that makes the French look good.
This whole mess started in February when National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg referred to the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”
(This term was originally used by foreign policy expert Groundskeeper Willie in “The Simpsons.”)
Soon after, fueled by anger over French refusal to support a U.S.-led war with Iraq, anti-French sentiment spread to epidemic proportions.
The joke found its way into Time, Newsweek, and Congress, where members were found uttering it off-camera.
Then things got messier.
Maybe it’s because Canadians and the French are the only nationalities that can be insulted in polite company.
Or maybe it’s because we are dead-set on proving that ignorant European stereotypes are valid.
Restaurant owner Neal Rowland, of Beaufort, N.C., decided to rename his french fries “freedom fries” as a way of showing his “patriotic pride”.
The idea soon spread to Congress, and Rep. Robert Ney (R, Ohio) managed to rename french fries and french toast in the cafeteria as “freedom fries” and “freedom toast.”
Beaufort and Ney are both names of French origin.
I guess they’ll be changing their names as well.
Anti-French hysteria now includes the following: Restaurants nationwide de-Frenching their fries.
Bags full of letters to the city of New Orleans demanding that the city rename the French Quarter the “Freedom Quarter.”
Delaware County state Rep. Steve Barrar is trying to prohibit Pennsylvania liquor stores from selling French wines.
And, most ominously of all, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R, Fla.) wants the government to bring home the remains of those who perished in France during World War I and World War II, at their relatives’ request.
Brown-Waite says she “does not feel that the French government appreciates the sacrifices that men and women in uniform have made to defend the freedom that the French enjoy today.”
It is important to remember that Reps. Ney, Barrar and Brown-Waite are playing to their constituents, sponsoring publicity-stunt bills that do nothing but make sure voters remember their names come election time.
However, it is equally important to remember that this viciousness is being directed at the French because they believe in diplomacy.
They believe that sanctions kept Iraq in line since 1991, and will continue to keep it in line.
They believe that a country facing internal dissent can be contained through economic and diplomatic isolation.
And they wondered what attacking Iraq has to do with al Qaeda.
But instead of addressing these concerns, politicians acting like French troops just stormed Louisiana, and are on their way to Texas.
Here’s hoping that this freedom fries and anti-French wine nonsense ends soon.
Otherwise, I might be forced to like the French.
Neal Ungerleider can be reached at N_terminal@yahoo.com.