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Pepe Le Pew Is A Skunk

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The French first entered my consciousness by way of Pepe Le Pew on Bugs Bunny. As young as I was, I realized that through Pepe- a not-so-flattering point was being made about the French both in the portrayal of a Frenchman as a skunk—and by Pepe’s so obviously insincere and self-serving behavior.

My next encounter with the French was also while I was a child. On TV, I watched the movie Gigi. From this movie, I concluded that the French were a frivolous people who spent much of their time either going to fancy restaurants or taking vacations at the seaside with women who were not their wives.

When I was a young adult, my friends dragged me to a theatre specializing in “arty” movies where I was subjected to Swann in Love, starring Jeremy Irons, and based on a few of the chapters of the Frenchman Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. The protagonist, Swann, is a portrait of French ennui mixed with something indefinably weirder (though recently familiar). At one point, when Swann is sitting up in bed surrounded by servants shaving, manicuring and dressing him he narrates a passage of the book he is writing full of bored self-pity. To the chagrin of my artier friends, I found myself loudly addressing the screen with the statement: “This guy needs to get a job!” Needless to say, my impression of the French was not improved by this movie, nor, was it improved by later trying to actually read “Remembrance of Things Past.’

To this point, the French seemed irrelevant and inconsequential to me. That they had been allies in WWII, I knew because of Cpl. Louis LeBeau in Hogan’s Heroes. I remembered learning in elementary school about Lafayette’s role in the American War of Independence. Conceding all that, I was unaware of any recent contribution the French had made during the decades since my birth sufficient enough to earn them the role of World Power. So, I simply thought of the French as an amalgam of Pepe, Louis Jordan, Swan and Cpl. LeBeau—and not much else.

Later in life, I discovered a book titled Leftist Revisited; From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot written by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. From that book, I learned of the barbaric savagery of the French Terror and the Jacobins—which was not only directed against royalty and aristocracy, but also against the common people of Vendee. I discovered the motivating impact of Rousseau (a man who repeatedly dumped his newborn children on the steps of an orphanage consigning them to certain death) on Pol Pot who, in an ironic twist, motivated the children of his country to murder their parents.

From Resistance and Betrayal, The Death and Life of the Greatest Hero of the French Resistance by Patrick Marnham, I learned that not only did the Communists of the French Resistance repeatedly betray their non-communist compatriots to the Nazis—they also embarked on a wholesale slaughter of them after the war in order to prevent them from gaining power and to also effect the sinister plans of their Soviet masters.

Even knowing all this- until I read Our Oldest Enemy, A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France by John J. Miller and Mark Molesky, I was naïve of the terrible impact France has had on America.

I read different books in different ways. If a book is merely good, I graze periodically, dividing my time between other books. If a book is excellent, I read it over a few days—ripping through it quickly with no regard for anything other than getting to the point.

When a book is truly outstanding, I not only have to fight myself to put it down to go to work or do chores, I re-read sentences in order to savor their particularly pleasing and memorable phrasing. This is one of those books. I consider this book to be a necessary antidote to the sentimentality about the French that has been thoughtlessly fed to those of us who were victims of government schools. And-unlike dry school lessons on history-it is a true pleasure to read.

From this book, we see a foreshadowing of the savagery of which the French proved capable during their Revolution terrifyingly exhibited by them during America’s pre-revolutionary history. In the midst of the French-Indian wars, the French, cynically and without Christian conscience, employed the most terrifying Weapon of Mass Destruction of that time and place. This WMD was the savagery of American Indian tribes, who like Islamic terrorists, made no distinction between fighting-men and infants.

During the American Revolution, France-though our ostensible ally- engaged in double-dealing designed both to retaliate against its ancient enemy Britain and to prevent an emerging American Republic from gaining sufficient power to pose an obstruction to France’s own designs on the American continent. After the American victory, France’s interference threatened our nascent Republic’s very survival through the Civil War and beyond.

A real eye-opener to me was the revelation that during WWII, French soldiers, under the command of Vichy, viciously fought us during the Allied invasion of French Morocco, killing American boys who were working toward the liberation of France. Likewise, after the liberation, France did not behave like a friend and ally. Instead, it thwarted us at every turn during the Cold War even as we were committing American dollars and men to protect it. Our money and men, in fact, permitted France the security to indulge in petty vindictiveness against us. The book shows many more instances of French backstabbing, finally bringing us up to present times and the perfidy of the French during U.N. negotiations over Iraq.

The book makes it apparent that France is wholly incapable of committing itself to any cause or principle other than its narrow and immediate self-interest. Yes the French gave us invaluable help during the American Revolution—but that was out of greed and acquisitiveness not out of any moral principle. Its accusations of American unilateralism with regard to Iraq are nothing more than projection of its own unilateral foray into a scheme of bribery with the monstrous regime of Saddam Hussein.

Our Oldest Enemy proves to me that France is not and never has been our friend. France’s agenda toward us is the same that it has always been: to knock us back and then keep us in the place it believes appropriate – subordinate to it. This has been demonstrated time and time again. Negotiating with France is like negotiating with a street harlot. The attractive appearance might be reassuring—but behind the harlot lurks a pimp prepared to roll you.

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  • John Slattery

    Your conclusion – that France is not and has never been our friend – strikes me, perhaps unfairly, as being ingenuous. It is, I’d say, a basic principle of international relations that countries do not HAVE friends; they have interests. And there is NO such thing as altruism, especially among nations. France, like every other country, looks out for its own self-interest, not always, admittedly, in ways that many might consider to be “enlightened” and often in ways that some might regard as “immoral” or “unethical”. But in this respect, France is no different from any other nation. Your unflattering descriptions of France can be applied, with equal justification, to any other country, past or present.

  • Nancy

    A little of it, too, can probably be attributed to vanity. After all, the French were once THE arbiters of culture, language, art, fashion, even food – in the entire Western world and by extension the entire world where Europeans dominated. Militarily they dominated until the defeat of Napoleon; culturally until early into the 20th century. Then after WWI, they tanked. Suddenly they were the apex of civilization only in the fields of cuisine and fashion, and as a world power – zip. Pretty far of a comedown. I hope I don’t live to see what the US does when we finally hit bottom and become only a symbol of licentious ‘entertainment’ and incessant advertising.

  • Nancy

    P.S. I always ADORED Pepe Le Pew. I thought he was too cute to move, and when I got old enough to recognize him as a caricature of Maurice Chevalier, it only made him cuter, IMO. I still love Monsieur Le Pew. And BTW, he wasn’t the only French skunk: remember M’amselle in ‘Pogo’? She wasn’t a stinker, either!

  • JR

    Actually the French are a major force in motor sports; they’ve produced some of the best drivers and they’re a leader in automotive technology.

  • Duane

    They are also the inventors of the French accent, which is about the coolest accent there is. And what would a hot dog be without the French’s mustard?

  • JR

    Get real. The French accent doesn’t even come close to the Irish, Scottish or Indian accents.

    The metric system is quite useful though.

  • Nancy

    And french fries. And don’t forget the french kiss, for those into tonsils. Then there’s the french bikini – quite racy for its time. I personally like the Carribean accent myself – that guy who voiced the crab in “Little Mermaid”…I must have a thing for cartoon guys w/accents.

  • HW Saxton

    Supposedly “Fellatio” is an invention of
    the French as well. Although I imagine
    the origins of that act go back a bit
    further than the Frogs can honestly lay
    claim to.

  • Duane

    The film maker? Nah, I think he was Italian.

  • HW Saxton

    Duane, Quite the cunning linguist aren’t

  • Duane

    Touche, H.W.

    Tish, that’s French!

  • HW Saxton

    Gomez, Not in front of the children.

  • Kath

    I just stumbled onto this archived review by accident and I must say – what a gem. What a jewel of entertainment this page is in its own right, filled with the sidesplitting observations of someone who has formed a tidy set of opinions on an entire nation with the help of… let’s see… one cartoon character, two movies, one sitcom, and four books. I must have a look at all this myself. I can only hope that the “History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with Those Evil, Evil French” will be quite so amusing, but at least it’s already been deftly proven to be edifying: who would’ve thought, for instance, that a country’s worth (or lack thereof) could be determined by the tone of their dealings with the US? It’s all so exquisitely simple!

    Many belated thanks go out to you. I haven’t read anything this funny all week.