Our readers give a Frenchman a piece of their minds.

BY JAMES TARANTO, Monday, March 29, 2004

On March 19, Best of the Web Today published an e-mail from a French reader that drew many impassioned and interesting responses from our fellow Americans. Here is the original letter again, followed by a selection of the answers:

Of course, Mr. Kerry isn't popular among the uneducated people and "white trash" supporting Mr. Bush. Neither among Mr. Bush's usual buddies: oil and finance sharks, hysterical South Protestants and other KKK members.

Alas, poor James, everything is going wrong. You've lost your Spanish toy poodle. Welcome back in Europe, dear Spain! And this is just the beginning: Mr. Blair, a good guy falling into Mr. Bush's trap, has big political problems, Mr. Berlusconi becomes more and more cautious, the Poles are resolute to return in their European family. The solution? A Bush-American one: Europe's bombing "for a safer world."

Alas again Mr. Bush's problems aren't only European: in Afghanistan (it was right to oust the Taliban), the same unsolved problems. In Iraq, the only happy news (Saddam's topple) is nullified by a worse situation than before, with the import of al Qaeda's large-scale terrorism. Where is the "safer world"? Nowhere.

Third "alas": in the U.S., no unemployment lowering, unfathomable deficit ("no matter"? really?), huge impoverishment (except for the upper-upper class), McCarthysm-like offenses against the civil liberties.

So it's not necessary to be a Frenchman or an intellectual to prefer to see Mr. Kerry at the White House, because it would be better for the world and the U.S. to have a night pot in the Oval Office than Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush's war on terrorism increases the terrorism (see Spain, etc.). It's obvious that this war will be much more effective in a real, in confidence international cooperation. Europe needs the U.S. and you need us. Allies yes, poodles no.

But I lose my time writing you. You will, Mr. Taranto, imperturbably continue your dubious job, of course not a journalist job. After all, your job is not so far from al Qaeda's one. Maybe worse: al Qaeda hates the non-Muslim world, you hate the whole world, except a little part of Americans. Who is the biggest terrorist?

--Bernard Marchois

I really got a kick out of the Frenchman Bernard Marchois's letter. In one paragraph he refers to "huge impoverishment" in the U.S. and in the next "it would be better for the world and the U.S. to have a night pot in the Oval Office than Mr. Bush."

I had to look up what a "night pot" is, and as best I can tell it's something that people in impoverished European countries use for defecating in at night. That such a term is in his vocabulary and absent from ours speaks volumes about relative impoverishment.

--Michael Muczynski

Just read Monsieur Marchois's response in today's Best of the Web. His rant reminded me very much of a French (toy) poodle--the bigger the target, the louder the bark and bluster. Does this mean that, should the French need assistance this century as they twice did last century, we won't need to respond?

By the way, congratulations on your job promotion. From journalist to terrorist--even Reuters can't claim that!

--Janet Flatley

Well I guess I'm just a snake-eater from Appalachia in the eyes of M. Marchois, the Gallic expert on all things American. Ya know, like I've always said, there's a reason some people are Americans and some people are Europeans: Our ancestors got the hell out of the Old Country so they could breathe a little freer and not be surrounded by idiot inbred cousins. Damn straight.

--Sara Blanshard

Well, talk about haughty! I've been trying to figure out what category I fall into on his description of Bush supporters. I guess I'd be "(e) other"--and I suspect a majority of the president's other supporters would fall under "e" as well. Clearly this man believes everything he reads in the mainstream press.

I can't help but be amused that so many of President Bush's critics consider themselves "intellectuals." Intellectuals do just that--they think, and tend not to act because they are so busy thinking about all the possible outcomes then fear acting on any of them at all.

Oh well, let these "intellectuals" crow about Bush's so-called lack of intellect. When things get tough, we're the ones who come to the rescue, we're the ones who supply most of the world with food, loans, etc.

Those were very sad and virulent words said through a mind with tunnel vision.

--Dede Bright

Something Mr. Marchois failed to note about those wonderful Frenchman that in France, if one works over 35 hours, the employee and employer can both be fined, jailed or both. What about those funny little metric laws? If a person is in a country that is part of the European Union uses nonmetric measures, he too can be fined, jailed or both. Please give Mr. Marchios a truly American invention--the Bronx cheer! Talk about civil liberties.

--Don Segal

I hold a B.S. in engineering and am two semesters away from a M.S. in management. My standardized test scores are among the highest percentile, and I consider myself well-read. Yet I still support George W. Bush. How can this be? According to Mr. Marchois, only the uneducated and "white trash" support him. I must admit, though, that I am a Protestant, but I have never been a member of the KKK.

Although I would normally be offended by the lack of tolerance shown by this insufferable member of a second-class nation, I find that I am simply bored by his attitude. The lack of maturity shown by this individual just reinforces my low opinion of anything Gallic. I often find myself wondering what drives this attitude. Jealousy? Anger at a lost birthright? Low self-esteem (and there's certainly enough reason for the French to have that)?

I would encourage this individual to come visit our country, in the interest of trans-Atlantic understanding. Unfortunately, I don't think he would open his eyes enough to appreciate why we feel the way we do, and why Americans are the dynamic and (sometimes) arrogant people we are. Since the days when we threw off British rule, we have always been energetic and confident, and it is this which has led to us being the world power that we are today. There is a will to succeed present in the American psyche which very few other nations possess, and maybe this gentleman recognizes and fears this, because he knows that he and his countrymen can never match it.

I could match him rant for rant, but upon reflection I don't think it's worth it. There's no arguing with someone so out of touch with reality, and who has no tolerance for those unwilling to conform to his point of view. Oddly enough, for a younger nation, it appears that we are actually the more mature of the two, since our tolerance for dissent appears to be much more refined and adult. As an example, after our revolution the commanding general went home and we wrote a constitution everyone could be satisfied with. After theirs, they lost their heads (so to speak) and went on a rampage before finally going back to a monarchy. Who should be following whose example?

--Nick Douthat

Before the Iraq war, I was caught in the midst of an online battle between a French guy and some seriously riled Americans, (around the time the French reversed course on Colin Powell). As an Armenian, I think I have a better understanding of both cultures due to France being one of the only countries willing to help my relatives (my grandmother, to be exact) during the Turkish massacre.

I ended up talking to this French guy via e-mail, trying to explain the American viewpoint by contrasting it to Europe's terror fights (Algeria, IRA, ETA, etc.). One of my main points was that Europeans really have no sense of the size and width of this country compared with their own, and that populations are comparable only if you count Russia as European (this was right after the "Old Europe" tag).

His answer was to dodge what I said and then question "how we could vote for a murderer as president." Now, since this was before Iraq, I wasn't sure what he was referencing, but then it hit me. I asked, "Is this about capital punishment"? His answer: "Yes. Texas under Bush murdered the most people."

I thought something was being lost in the translation, but he finally did clarify that he knew the difference and it didn't matter; capital punishment is wrong, and since Bush supported it in Texas, he was a murderer and planned on murdering those he captured in the war on terror. Needless to say, I gave up on the French after that.

--Martin Sarafian

I read with dismay the rather toxic letter you posted from Mr. Marchois. Recently there seem to be a lot of blogs, both on the left and right, posting letters from idiots.

I'd like to ask you not to. Besides the fact that the identity of the e-mailer is really entirely unknown ("on the Internet nobody knows if you're a dog"), the circumstances of the e-mailer are also unknown. Mr. Marchois might be a loudmouthed 11-year-old with a computer, who will grow up and learn to express his views more cogently and courteously.

You wouldn't hold up the attacks of a vociferous preteen to ridicule if they were made to you in person; you'd shrug it off. I'd like to encourage you to assume the same about particularly stupid e-mailers (yeah, yeah, I know, this could be considered a particularly stupid e-mail too) and be gracious.

--Sanjay Krishnaswamy

Has anyone noticed the propensity of the French to convert an unhappy necessity into a virtue? Their foodstuffs were inedible, so they invented sauces; their plumbing was medieval, so they invented perfume; and their military was humiliated wherever it set foot, so they invented "diplomacy," by which they meant, first, collaboration and, second, appeasement.

The French are a hothouse culture, a population that has not needed to mature since 1945. It is, in effect, an emotionally adolescent population torn between greed and resentment, greed that it wants satisfied by its left-wing governments, and resentment of the nation that had saved and preserved it. Since World War II, Europe has been a protectorate of the U.S., kept secure for its increasingly self-indulgent population by the American troops stationed there. With the disintegration of the U.S.S.R., this immature population felt safe enough finally to insult the forces that had rescued them from their home-grown horrors and collaborators.

Your French letter-writer belongs to this population that believes, like adolescent children, that "bons mots" actually affect the conduct of affairs. The French have always had a love affair with "wit," and their success in the world since the fiasco of the French Revolution, an utterly failed imitation of the American one, must be the inevitable result of trying to win wars by throwing one-liners at the enemy. In this respect, he belongs to the same cadre as some of the U.S. spin-meisters featured on the networks. The only antidote to be found to this rubbish is on the Web. Keep up the good work.

--Jean-Pierre Schachter

Brilliant! Fabulous! Witty! Articulate! And absolutely stone-cold right on!!! Hurrah!!! There are thinking people in the universe!!! None on your side of course. Thank you James for the quote. You have made my day!!!

--Martin Dicker

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