Toast, fries, and kisses: Everything is better French
America is indebted to France for more than good food.
(Page 2 of 2)
In truth, generations of Americans have long identified with and romanticized Paris, despite the fact that the city was once known for shunning English-speakers. Now that city is again awash with Americans. Today, I saw French waiters, cabbies, and hotel desk clerks go out of their way to be helpful and pleasant, often using halting English. Self-check-in machines at airports have instructions in English as well as French.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Though not all French may be head over heels for Americans, it seems the French have managed to move beyond the animosity of the past more quickly than we Americans.
Americans really need to recognize the French are decades ahead of us in recognizing how interconnected the world has become because of globalization. While Americans still mentally barricade themselves behind their oceans, the French have made giant strides toward global accommodation and integration.
The West is indebted to France for much more than Manet, Monet, and Renoir. We forget it was French knights who checked the first Islamic invasion of Europe not far from Paris in the 8th century. The French victory at Tours blocked the spread of a militant Arab-Islamic culture, allowing Europe to develop its own rich civilization. Arguably, the French saved Christianity.
Absent the aid of a French cardinal named Richelieu, the Protestant Reformation might have collapsed and the American Colonies could have been radically different.
The world's intellectual debt to the French Enlightenment is incalculable. And no country did more to support the American War for Independence. Without the French, Americans might still be paying unconscionable taxes to the British royal family.
Several of our wisest Founding Fathers, including Jefferson and Franklin, recognized the richness of things French. Perhaps now it's time for this generation of Americans to rediscover the joie de vivre of the French. Become like that fellow I saw recently wearing a T-shirt reading "toast, fries, kisses, everything is better French."
Recently while buying a ticket at the Musée d'Orsay to see the Impressionist galleries, I inquired if there was a senior discount. Politely, I was told "no." Jokingly, I told the ticket clerk: "Then I need a wheelchair to get about." He laughed and told me I could get a wheelchair just the other side of the barricade, but first I had to buy a full-price ticket.
The leaven of self-deprecating humor can make even the coolest Frenchman thaw and smile.
Walter Rodgers a former senior international correspondent for CNN, writes a biweekly column for the Monitor's print edition.