Hold the Freedom Fries

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Mr. Markowitz is an associate professor of history at the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University.

There is an old definition of the word reactionary--those "who learn nothing from history and forget nothing from history." I was thinking of that definition when I read that the House Republicans had renamed French fries (which the French and Europeans call pomfrit) "freedom fries" and French Toast "freedom toast." All students of U.S history know that during WWI, sauerkraut became "liberty cabbage" and other German proper nouns were temporarily expelled from the English language by champions of "100 percent Americanism." The Roosevelt administration also knew that when it went to some lengths to avoid similar acts during World War II.

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Of course, the U.S. was at war with Germany in 1917. Today, a war with France is not imminent. Nor is France the only nation opposed to the Bush policies. Indeed, Germany, with its Social Democratic-Green government and its history of launching two World Wars was more militant about its opposition than France, although Germany doesn't have a veto on the Security Council. And China is opposed, not to mention Russia, much of Western Europe, the countries of the Near East, and what seems to be a large majority of the human race.

Why pick on France as against the "wimps" in Deutschland, not to mention the Russkies or the Chinese. Maybe our neo national chauvinists are closet Wehrmacht lovers--the old slogan on the belts of the Wehrmacht troops, "Gott Mit Uns," or "God is on Our Side," which Americans and the rest of the world took as the classic example of German imperial arrogance, would fit in nicely with their world-view.

Perhaps our neo-Francophobes are Soviet Moles in deep cover. After all, the government of Jacques Chirac in France is a government of the Right, the most important conservative government after the Bush administration--if you want to call it conservative--among the Great powers. This may be a complex maneuver to oust the French government, in the tradition of that famous geopolitical axiom, "the road to Paris is through Peking" (now it would be Bagdad). Or this may be an internal conflict within the international Right, similar to the conflict in the international left in the 1930s between Stalin and Trotsky. Just as Stalin's supporters called Trotsky "the Renegade Trotsky" and accused him of conspiring with the enemies of the Soviet state, so our Fox news pundits may begin to condemn "the Renegade Chirac" and see the hand of Paris in Bagdad. Let's hope Chirac doesn't have to worry about CIA agents greeting him with ice axes.

There are other interpretations -- a freudian or "psychohistory" interpretation in which the slogan "real men don't eat quiche" has led the Bush administration and the media to see in the French a threat to spread homosexuality throughout the free world. Finally, since no one, including historians, is mentioning the decisive aid France gave to the American Revolution after the Battle of Saratoga--aid more directly involved in the victory of the Revolution than the certainly important U.S. involvement in France in the two world wars was to saving France--it is possible that our Francophobes are secret enemies of the American Revolution, which did confiscate the property of many Tories, separate Church and state, increase the formal rights of the lower classes, end slavery in much of the North, and produce a Bill of Rights. These are all policies, with the possible exception of the abolition of slavery, that the present administration and its supporters might take issue with.

But what we all know is that this administration believes in the Triumph of the Will, its will to do what it wants regardless of global and domestic opposition. Maybe "freedom fries" are just the beginning. Tomorrow, egg rolls will become "democracy rolls," if the Chinese don't take our side. Tandoori Chicken will become "international law chicken" if the Indians and Pakistanis don't support the administration. A culinary "new world order" will be in the making. Fortunately, Russia, the "new" anti-Communist Russia, has nothing save Borscht, which isn't too big in the United States, to go after, although they continue to have nuclear overkill.

As a final point, before the usual right-wing suspects open fire on this essay (if they did not open fire on my essays I would know that I am doing something wrong) let me say it was meant as satire, which is, as historians understand, often a defense mechanism for people confronting a political nightmare.

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More Comments:

Gus Moner - 3/18/2003

That WHO allowed Iraq to acquire? At least be accurate, never mind fair. It was the USSR, UK, USA, France, Switzerland and Germany. At least bash everyone equally. Remember, the Brits even built them a chemical plant! So, if he has the arsenal, why send our soldiers into such a hellish scenario for failing to wait a few weeks?

Why all the idiotic French bashing when so many also opposed it? Like a herd of shhep. It's cause we need a villain rather than admit we weren't up to the stature of the discourse. Not because we couldn't have been if we wanted, but because our plan was to attack and oust, not diplomacy.

Diplomacy was always a cover for Britain and the other potential allies, who have turned out to be Australia. Curiously, in no contributing nation save the USA, who is actually the instigator and aggressor, is there popular support for the war. Not one.

And 15 anonymous nations, amongst whom Israel undoubtedly leads the pack support us. With another 30 as yet unnamed but whose cooperation goes from political yes-saying to using bases, over-flights, etc. But no one in the region save the Sheiks of Kuwait support the invasion.

Herodotus - 3/18/2003

What good is satire on a site dedicated to the informed analysis of contemporary events from a historical perspective?

Who cares about attacking it from the right or the left. How about just saying it's a waste of time? Oh well, it's all fun and games until Saddam uses the chemical and nerve agents that the French allowed him to acquire. Or maybe the nuke they sold him.