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23 April 2018


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nick b

Please let me begin by saying how much I enjoy reading your thoughtful comments here.

As I read your post I was struck by the two examples you used: "freedom fries" and "cheese eating surrender monkeys". They're both very different, and also very similar, in a 'life imitates art' kind of way.

From my recollection, the "l'affaire freedom fries" was the doing of Congressman Bob Ney. As chairman of the House Administration committee, he oversaw the various capitol complex cafeterias and their menus. He changed the 'french fries' to 'freedom fries' in a jingoistic frenzy over France's refusal to support the invasion of Iraq. It got a lot of press, but frankly it was buffoonish, and appealed to a similar crowd.

"Cheese eating surrender monkeys" on the other hand finds, its origins in a 1995 episode of the fictional cartoon comedy: 'The Simpsons'. In the episode, budget cuts at Springfield elementary school have forced Willie, the unhinged Scottish groundskeeper, into teaching french class. Willie addresses his students in his overwrought Scottish accent: 'Bon-Jooouuurrr, you cheese eating surrender monkeys'.

The irony here, is that the whole bit is parody, not of the French, but of America. The joke was, that cheese eating and surrender are about as deep as it gets, in relation to knowledge of France, for some (most?) in this country. And the concept of groundskeepers being impressed into service teaching french classes seems less and less bizarre in an era of cash starved school systems. It's the sort of subversive comedy that made 'The Simpsons' so hugely entertaining in it's first decade.

My point is that the people who then used the CESM phrase to criticize the French in the run-up to the Iraq invasion never understood the irony of what they were saying. Essentially becoming real life cartoon characters themselves to those in on the joke. Later, life imitated art even further when Congressman Ney, demonstrated the depth of his knowledge of the relations between the US and France with his own cartoonish 'freedom fries' protest. (A quick aside, after Cong. Ney resigned from congress for being caught up in the Abramoff scandal and pleading guilty to something, the menu was changed back.)

I hope you don't mind this rambling discourse on what was most likely a passing reference on your part. I was just struck by the examples and the different things that they said to me.



When USMA was so unlucky as to have me as a professor, I had a colleague named Claude Violet who was the civilian professor of French. WP wanted civilian instructors to wear uniform and Claude wore his with several rows of French ribbons. He was an officer of the 2nd Moroccan Division from the Italian Campaign and had been severely wounded while leading his goumiers at places like Monte Cassino. His manner with cadets was drole. he would have them stand on their desks while he inspected their shoeshine. When there were senior visitors to his class he required the cadets to submit whatever questions or statement they might make to him in writing in advance. i asked him why he did that and he said that they were at WP to learn not to ask embarrassing questions. He was a bachelor and there was all the usual speculation until he went on leave to France and returned with a beautiful blond wife 20 years his junior. She was an international lawyer. I remember having lunch with him in the officer's mess one day when two female nurses walked by our table. after they were out of earshot Claude laughed. "Mais, mon vieux lapin," he said. "They are my neighbors in the old BOQ and it is splendid to hear the cries of joy from their apartment as they make each other happy." Americans will never understand the french. Vive la France! pl

Mark Logan

That is interesting. So little is mentioned about that.

Another commonly held misconception is that the French just gave up when Germany invaded them in WW2. Finding out the German and Italians suffered 160,000 casualties during that invasion surprises a lot more folks than it should.


My grandmere was a young girl living in Meaux outside of Paris during the First Battle of the Marne. She and the other townfolk were astounded by the first contingent of Moraccan troops who, upon disembarking from their train cars heard a report that the Germans were just across the Marne. Some wasted no time in swimming to the opposite bank with knives in teeth to meet the enemy and remove the 'cabbages' resting on German shoulders. Must have been some lousey train ride to the front.


WWII...Bir Hakeim..The perfect riposte to the freedom hating French Surrender Monkey Legend. Look Here. At the end of the article, it seems the Führer was impressed also.

Chris Browning

My grandfather served in the 102nd Field Artillery (Mass Nat'l Guard) with Pershing, in France and Mexico. He was a crusty old New Englander with all of the normal prejudices of his generation and milieu. There were any number of nations and ethnicities he held in low regard.

But he always spoke of France, and the French, with great affection. I never heard anything but respect for their soldiers, from Marshal Foch down to the lowest poilu. He hated the war but he was glad he'd seen France.


I'm glad you posted this. As you say, I hope on the 4th of July their graves are decorated too--they definitely more than earned our gratitude. I've only made it out to Yorktown once so far in my life (after a visit to some friends at nearby NASA Langley Research Center), but next time I'm in town I'll try to make sure I have more time scheduled for the visit.


William Fitzgerald

C'est vrai. On the other hand, the French are perpetually puzzled by the Americans. I imagine that the mutual lack of comprehension existed as far back as when Rochambeau and his boys marched down to Yorktown. Mitterand's funeral and the Monica Lewinsky frenzy would be a recent example.




Well, I agree with the French. Americans are nuts about sex. pl


Sorry, I tried posting a "Bir Hakeim link and it did not fire. This is the old fashioned way http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_M-j67PJdM

The beaver

I believe it was Colonel Stanton in the presence of Maréchal Joffre.

If you happen to visit Paris, the Picpus cemetery in the 12th is where Lafayette is buried



I think what Stanton said was "Lafayette, nous voici." (Lafayette, we are here.) pl

Alba Etie

Col Lang
There were many Europeans that fought and died founding These United States . Tasdsuec Kosciuzko from Poland /Luithiana was promoted to General , & Chief Engineer in the Continental Army . He designed Battlements at West Point & Saratoga . Additionally Kosciuzko also bought with him volunteers from Poland to fight for the Continental Army that were both Moslem & Christian .We were not alone in our fight for Independence - its good to be reminded of this history .

Alba Etie

Mitterand 's mistress was holding hands with Madame Mitterand 's at his funeral , yes ?

Alba Etie

Col Lang,
I may have not expressed well in my comment how much I felt what a waste of time and treasure it was to have Kenneth Starr & Tom DeLay try to remove President Clinton from office for essentially having a girlfriend . I remember well at the time of President Mitterand 's funeral the openess and love both the Mistress & the Madame exhibited there.

Mark Logan


I would attribute that to a sense of entitlement to power that some seem to have acquired during the Reagan years. The attacks on Obama are sometimes just as ruthless. Not that Clinton's public approval ratings remained high through the entire debacle.

I know very little about the French, but I was fortunate to have spent a fair bit of my youth in a very small western community. There were many things that everybody knew and accepted, perhaps tolerated might be a better word, but never talked about in a public setting. IMO, the Puritans left a mark, but they did not prevail.


mark logan

In the NE and much of the midwest the puritan mindset prevails. pl

Alba Etie

Yes we all have had our encounters with the Scarlet Letter Crowd . At sixty years young I am really trying to live and let live these days. And I would agree that the Puritans did not prevail - but the contest it appears unfortunately is ongoing .

Alba Etie

Col Lang
Slightly off topic - being not Catholic , but semi adherent Methodist I found the Pope 's assertion about trickle down economics not working to be intriguing-and that I agreed with the premise . I do believe a case can be made that we have real and historic income disparities that are causing much grief in our society and comity. I seem to recall you once opined here that we need to return to the business ethics that tried for win win solutions . I found it further interesting that President Obama cited the new Pope's observation about trickle down economics in his speech today .



Francis has said nothing that is not standard Catholic doctrine. You Prods and others just do not understand the Church and its past history of not living up to its own doctrine. pl


AE et al
No. No. This country is so imbued with Calvinism as a basis for everything that you can't recognize that because you are so embedded in the system. AE! You live in Texas. what place could be more Calvinist than that? Don't be deceived by Texian nastiness. It has its origins in the Scotch-Irish freebooters who took the place from Mexico. If you want to see a Christianity based society that has nothing of Calvinism about it. visit Brazil. you probably would not like the place because it would offend your Calvinist soul. pl

Alba Etie

Col Lang
Yes sir - I do resemble that remark .

Alba Etie

Col Lang
I am more secular then secreterian (I hope & pray.) And being a once or twice a year Methodist church goer - I personally have 'no dog in this fight " betwixt the various Christians .
I again would wish to live and let live . Finally at the risk of offending others here at SST - I can honestly say I am convinced that my dear departed childhood friend Jim - who was a professed Bhuddist , but really helped many many people , is in Heaven . Anyone who helped that many people & had that much compassion surely would not be in Hell .
I would love to go to Brazil - perhaps my undetected Calvinist Soul needs to be offended . Furthermore once there I could go fishing in the Amazon - by all reports there are catfish bigs as tree there. Its on my bucket list .

Alba Etie

Although -these days I only drink soda pops - perhaps while in Brazil ., I might visit the bar where Pope Francis used to be a bouncer - that might be good for my Calvinist souls as well .



Francis is from Argentina. I presume that the bar he worked in is there. Your reaction to the idea that he worked in a bar is symptomatic. This was before he went to the seminary and it was not a sin. What is the problem? Ignatius Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) He was a Spanish professional soldier who had a massive come to Jesus moment. Calvinists believe in predestination and the immutability of character. Catholics are not allowed to believe that. pl

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