Vive la France!

French Flag

It has been a while since I have entered the blogging world, so I thought my return should find me writing about something which has been bothering me for a long time. Recently while walking through the halls of Drake University I heard a not-so-mature young man make a comment about France’s alleged cowardice and general awfulness. This view is shared by many Americans who don’t know their history, so I thought I should take to task the stereotypes and set the record straight about our croissant eating allies.

First there is the idea that the French rolled over to Germany in 1940. While it is true that France’s battle with Germany was very short, it is also true that this could be attributed to the fact that the French government was run by collaborators at the time as much as it could be to any cowardice or incompetence on the part of the French Army. Additionally, if France rolled over to the Germans, can’t we say the same about Austria, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania? All of them are countries which quickly fell to the Nazi war machine, yet they are never given the scorn leveled at France.

There is also the fact that while Americans like to criticize the French war effort, at the time we were still sitting the war out and would be for more than a year. Furthermore, there is the untold story of the British and American surrender in the Pacific during the war. In 1941-42, the British and American forces in the Pacific surrendered Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, and the Philippines to the Japanese. Yet, no American ever accuses either British or American forces of “rolling over” to the Japanese in the Pacific. Indeed, General Douglas MacArthur’s speech stating that “I shall return” has entered into American folklore as proof of American resolve and determination. Much less known is General Charles de Gaulle’s speech where he told the people of France that the war was not over and that they should continue to fight the Germans and the Vichy government. If Americans can view the American surrender in the Pacific as related to the grim reality of conditions on the ground at the time, and if they can view MacArthur’s “I shall return” speech as an inspiration, why can’t the same be said about France’s surrender to Germany and de Gaulle’s “appeal of June 18″ speech?

Furthermore, the French did not just passively sit by and wait for the Americans to liberate them. Many French citizens accepted de Gaulle’s demand to keep fighting their occupiers and formed what would soon pass into French folklore: the French Resistance. The French Resistance was the largest resistance movement in Europe, consisting of about 400,000 people who fought against the German occupation by conduction sabotage, spreading propaganda, and giving intelligence to the Allied Powers. At least 100,000 memebers of the Resistance were killed, many of whom were sent to concentration camps. They played a key role in the liberation of France, garnering praise from no less a military hero than Dwight D. Eisenhower who wrote in his military memoir Crusade in Europe:  

Throughout France, the Free French had been of inestimable value in the campaign. They were particularly active in Brittany, but on every portion of the front we secured help from them in a multitude of ways. Without their great assistance, the liberation of France and the defeat of the enemy in Western Europe would have consumed a much longer time and meant greater losses to ourselves.

There is also the French role in the American Revolution. While the idea of breaking away from Great Britain was a home grown idea, it is often forgotten that the French were key allies of the colonists in the war. Having been defeated by the British in the French and Indian War (and having a hatred of Great Britain going back centuries), the French were more than happy to aid America in its quest for independence.

As one history site states:

Without the direct and indirect assistance of France, it is doubtful that Americans could have won the war for independence. From 1776 to 1783 France supplied the United States with millions of livres in cash and credit. France also committed 63 warships, 22,000 sailors and 12,000 soldiers to the war, and these forces suffered relatively heavy casualties as a result. The French national debt incurred during the war contributed to the fiscal crisis France experienced in the late 1780s, and that was one factor that brought on the French Revolution. In the end the French people paid a high price for helping America gain its independence.

Additionally, it was the French Minister of War who introduced Ben Franklin to Baron Von Steuben, the Prussian military officer who is credited with turning the rag tag group of American colonists into a disciplined, well-trained fighting force.

So the next time you say to a French person, “you’d be speaking German if it wasn’t for us!” expect them to retort “you’d be signing God Save the Queen if it wasn’t for us” because a French person would have every right to say that with confidence.

Regarding French military history, this post does not even cover the history of Napoleon, France’s valiant defense in the First World War, or its military record in the post-World War II word, but that is for another time.

The Baby Boomers Have No Right to Criticize the Millennials

In May of this year, Time Magazine ran a ridiculous cover story titled “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation” which asserts that people born between 1980 and 2000 are spoiled, lazy, and still live with their parents.

It is a time honored tradition for people of middle age to whine about the younger generation;

“We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control.” -words inscribed on a 6,000-year-old Egyptian tomb.

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”- Plato, Fourth Century BC

And then, a few hundred years later, in AD1274, Peter the Hermit joined the chorus. “The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint … As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.” – Peter the Hermit, 1274

This reason alone should be enough to dismiss Time’s silly article, but what really gets me about the sentiments of my generation is from here they are coming: The Baby Boomers.

These people grew up in the comfort provided by veterans of WW II and the Korean War, stayed loaded on sex and drugs for twenty years and left my generation worse than they were, and they have the nerve to complain?

The late, great comedian George Carlin puts it better than I ever could: (warning harsh language)

What Would the Founding Fathers Do? Who Cares

Founding Fathers

If one follows politics in America, one will inevitable run into the argument that the country should return to the intentions of the Founding Fathers. The logic goes like this: “the founding fathers were brilliant men whose ideas were perfect and America would be back on track if only those ideas were followed.

The only problem is that not all the ideas of the Founding Fathers were noble.

On the issue of Native Americans, the Founders held genocidal views with Thomas Jefferson stating: “pursue [the Indians] to extermination, or drive them to new seats beyond our reach”.

The Founder were also slave owners; ironic given their statements about freedom and equality.

In addition to their attitudes about the rights of non white, non male property owners, their is another big reason why we should not return to the Founders intentions: we wouldn’t know what intentions to follow.

Writer Steve Kanga puts it well:

“The Constitutional Convention of 1787 featured lively, even heated debates among the Founders. Small states were opposed to suggestions made by large states; federalists were opposed to anti-federalists; commercial interests were opposed to competing interests. Issues that bitterly divided the Convention included the method of Congressional representation, slavery, and the proper role and authority of the president. All these issues were resolved by compromise and consensus — the very democratic principles that many conservatives and libertarians seek to nullify by appealing to the intentions of the Founders.”

Another example of how futile it would be to try to follow the Founding Fathers’ intentions is the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1789. The Acts were signed into law by President John Adams and were used, in a large part, to imprison critics of his administration under the guise of “national security.”

In response, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison pased the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions which stated that states could nullify federal laws as the Alien and Sedition Acts if they violated the Constitution.

So, on the issue of free speech, who is right, Adams or Jefferson and Madison? The fact that we can ask such a question should make everyone pause before they play the Founding Fathers card the next time they are discussing politics. Perhaps we should instead look at the Constitution and apply it to today’s world instead of trying to read the minds of people who have been dead for over 150 years. Just a thought.

Rape Culture is Not The Only Reason For Victim Blaming

Rape Culture

Back in May of 2013, two teenagers in Steubenville, Ohio were found guilty of raping a 16-year old girl. For most people, this would come as good news that the young men were going to be punished for their crime and that justice was being served.

However, not everyone saw it that way. One such person was CNN’s Candy Crowley who said she was saddened by the verdict because “these two young men — who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.” One has to wonder how any human being with a shred of decency could hold such views, and indeed, there was considerable backlash against Crowley’s comments, including a petition calling on CNN to apologize for her disgusting comments. Such a reaction may make some people have a restored faith in humanity, and view the Steubenville rape case as an isolated incident of victim blaming.

Alas, this turned out not to be the case. Recently, a 14-year old young woman named Daisy Coleman was raped in the small town of Maryville, Missouri. As in Steubenville, the reaction was to blame the victim for the attack. As the website “Thinkprogress” reported, “Days after the incident became public knowledge, students at the high school began attacking Daisy and her family. On social media, fellow Maryville students began threatening Daisy, tweeting that she would “get whats comin.” If that weren’t enough, the charges against the football players were dropped.

Many are blaming America’s Rape Culture for the victim blaming in these two cases. While America certainly trivializes and excuses rape, there is another big factor at play in the Steubenville and Maryville cases and that is the unwritten rule in Western Culture that morality and rules do not apply to those high up on the social ladder.

Johnathan Swift was said that “Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.” It has always been true in America that those with social status are allowed to get away with crime. For instance, white collar crime costs more than 22 times more than street crime, but it is ignored since it is usually carried out by white men in suits. It is also true that blacks use drugs in smaller percentages than whites, despite the fact that they are incarcerated in much greater numbers than whites.

America clearly needs to deal with its problem of rape culture, but it also needs to create a justice system which does not say that it is o.k for the “1%” to commit crimes. If you don’t believe me ask yourself this: if a group of high school boys who were members of the chess club were accused of rape, would the media have any sympathy for them?

The Media Needs Less Balance, Not More

scale

Ask anyone what they think is wrong with the media today and they will inevitably say that it is biased. If a news station covers a speech given by President Obama, it will be flooded with hundreds letters claiming it was too easy on the President, along with hundreds of letters claiming that they are right-wing nuts out to defame the President.

There are are many problems with the idea of providing “balanced coverage” to every event and and subject. One big problem is human nature. Our stubbornness usually makes us reject anything which does not conform to our own preconceived beliefs. A great example of this is the 1951 Sam Fuller film The Steel Helmet. The film, about America’a involvement in the Korean War, was attacked by the U.S. military for showing American soldiers shooting prisoners of war, yet it was also attacked by the communist newspaper The Daily Worker for being right-wing propaganda.

Another problem is that people do not like to hear anything which is unflattering to an organization which they support. Take for example the scandals involving sex abuse in the Catholic Church. They are many who claim that reporting on such events are “anti-Catholic” or are slanderous, but they are just facts which are being reported.

The most important problem with the idea of “unbiased reporting” is that not every issue has a legitimate second side to represent. On Holocaust Remembrance Day should news stations bring on a Holocaust denier to show balance? On MLK Day should a Grand Wizard of the KKK by interviewed to give an opinion? Many news stations give air time to global warming skeptics; would they do the same for members of the Flat Earth Society?

It is time journalists realize that they should just stick to facts and know that no matter how hard they try to be objective they will always be accused of catering to a certain political bent.