Back in 2003, when France was disinclined to join the U.S.-led "coalition" in an invasion of Iraq, an anti-French political movement immediately evolved in the United States as what seemed to be a grass-roots phenomenon. "French" fries, a favor-ite food item on almost every American's normal menu, went out of favor overnight, and
Americans, full of self-sacrifice, grudgingly resigned themselves to the consumption of, not French but Freedom fries.
The indisputable fact that the first three letters of both words were identical seems to have escaped media attention at the time, so I am mentioning it now, nine years and some months later, to point out that this consonance did not harm national sales of fried potatoes very much. As soon as the mouth makes the "Fr" position, the message is across already, to an alert observer, and the rest is just noise, whether it is Gallic or Y'Allic.
I remember feeling a bit proud of myself, at the time, for being able to hold a superior attitude about the fries debate as it took place on that horrible monstrous thing now called the National Stage- a hell of a vaudeville show on a regular basis, that one, and you want them to all go the the islands and take a break; that show is always a bit too much now, that National Stage.
The National Stage shouldn't be hosting a full-time freak show, or it should be called something else, perhaps the Not Ready for National Stage, until all the people on it learn to stop throwing feces at each other like monkeys on Xanax, or just get it over with and drown each other all with it, and then the National Stage could be hosed down with one of those police water cannons, sterilized and purified with a mixture of ancient and modern Native American and European-based remedies- soap, cedar, pine resin, smudge sticks, incense, Lysol, whatever gets it clean at last- and finally a lot of spring water that has been blessed by someone with a good heart.
And then fill the National Stage up with scientists, benefactors, artists, philosophers, inventors, poets, balladeers, fiddle players, cheerful givers and receivers, guys who know how to fix a chain saw, and one small wise child who can be held in reserve to provide the answer when some great calamity befalls the land and the king and his court are baffled and about to lose it.
Keep that kid in reserve, but let him play with his friends and all, and send him to school, and all the rest of that stuff, in the meanwhile.
But one of these days, as in all good stories, the little hero has to do his number, and save the king's outfit, and all that could happen on the National Stage instead of things like state-sponsored shooting of people in the head and drinking in the halls of congress or whatever they were really up to.
It's disgraceful. They are up on the National Stage just throwing monkey poo, and this is what we now accept as normal.
Watch out. They'll test it further. If a herd of idiots can throw monkey poo on each other, and receive great pay and benefits, what is to prevent them from really pushing the envelope?
Why not - I know, they can drone each other.
"The honorable gentleman will yield.... the honorable gentleman will... BOOM!!
Minni-drone attack, and the honorable gentleman who chose to drone instead of to yield symbolically blows a wisp of imaginary smoke off the hot barrel of his invisible revolver, and continues his filibuster about the rights of unborn GMO patented milo kernels.
Later on, in the nightly news, it would be "This is the news with your host Joe Schmoe " and Joe would be saying something like
"Today... in the Senate chambers, a senior opposition leader, Senator Unconventional-Counter-Droid Ydoncha Biteme, was killed by a mini-drone strike.
"A victorious survivor of the mini-drone attack was Senator Conventional-Droid Biteme Ydoncha, who, acting as a spokesperson for a spokesperson for the mini-drone House and Senate Handy Assassination Program, said that in-House insurgents were being eliminated.
"Senator Conventional-Droid Biteme Ydoncha went on to say that to eventually ensure complete conformity among the conventionalist and unconventionalist wings, to solidify the liquidity of their disfavor and recalcitrance, and to gel the remaining cells of disagreements among them regarding points of view among the remaining Droids of all types, the Assassination subcommittee had its bloody hands full, and would continue their work, having ensured continuing funding through the use of today's mini-drone strike on Senator Unconventional-Counter-Droid Ydoncha Biteme.
"Later, another unnamed government spokesman said that the assassination of the Senator was a magnificent sacrifice and and excellent demonstration of cutting-edge in-House drone strike technology."
"And that's the news. Later, the Kardashians. What are they going to think of next!"
But that's not what I meant to talk about. I swear, sometimes I just feel like a little ole channel. I just tell it like it comes, and we'll let the scholars of the future decide whether it is garbage or prophecy.
I don't know what channel it is, though. The Weird Channel, maybe.
No what I meant to say had to do with French fries, and the anti-French thing.
People got over it after a while, but a whole sub-generation of American children will hate the French all their lives and won't know why until they have years of therapy and various courses of experimental drugs, and then they will understand, it was what their parents said about the freedom fries, way back in '02 when they were babies, and they never could stand a French person after that.
Look around you, friends and neighbors. You know this is true. And it's not over yet. Nor is this piece.
Anyway, I never accepted the anti-French thing. I mean, I accepted it as something I couldn't seem to do anything to prevent, because I am a lot like Saint Francis, but I never embraced it.
Come to think of it, when I was a kid, embracing the French was really what every American boy thought about, especially at night under the covers.
Or so I heard. But I was a bit too young for that at the time, and instead my whole view of the French came from three places. No, four.
First, Emile LeBeque and his half-breed singing children.
Second, Maurice Chevalier. Who could hate the French after hearing Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold- the original Hermione- sing "I Remember It Well"? I know, she was actually English, but he was as French as it gets.
Third, "La Vie en Rose", sung by Edith Piaf. No words can do it justice, so I won't try.
And fourth, my mother and grandmother actually travelling to (and safely returning from) France on the "France" herself, and me getting to see the ship off at the pier in New York in the days when the super-liners were still with us.
That day there was a beautiful dark-haired girl in the crowd. I was probably twelve and she ten or eleven. I don't know. We never met.She was looking at me. There were thousands of people. And the big side of the impossibly huge ship, and the great black wooden roof above the pier shading us all.
I would get a glimpse of her. She would be looking at me. I'd look back, then she would be gone. This happened a few times. It felt really wonderful. We didn't smile. It was just there. I have no idea of anything. I just thought, that is someone I know.