Sunday, August 26, 2012

I'm sure you've seen this picture...

...many times. It's of a Parisian reacting to the news of the French surrender to the Germans in World War II.

What does that have to do with anything?

I think I had a bit of an "Aha!" moment the other night when my son and I were riding bikes after dinner.

At various times during our ride, we came upon freshly paved roads that were really nice. And I thought to myself, I wonder if these were repaved as part of the president's stimulus bill? Because, again, they're really nice!

And as I was thinking that, I passed a few homeowners who looked to me like typical Obama-haters. How can I tell? Well, for starters, they were middle-aged white suburbanites. (That's usually a good sign -- or a bad one.) And I thought to myself, I wonder if these people appreciate these nice roads? And the president who had them repaved?

And then -- like a light bulb! -- it occurred to me, Hell no! They hate this president! Why? Well, among other things (like race), it has to do with that French man in the picture above.

Let me explain.

The Americans bailed out the French twice in the last century, during World Wars I and II. And yet, the French seem so ungrateful for our help. And Americans, for the life of us, can't understand why. (And I think this is why the average American, generally, has contempt for all things French.)

The problem is that the French know the Americans bailed them out -- and they hate us for it. Why? Because they didn't want the help (even if they knew, at some level, that they needed it). The French wanted to defeat the Germans by themselves. (Every adult wants to think of himself as self-sufficient.) And so the French hate Americans for not allowing them to do so.

And I think it's the same with the average American and the stimulus (and the Obama administration in general). Americans are a hardy lot; libertarianism is one of the strongest and most fundamental strains in this country. (Evangelical Christianity is another.) Americans want to think of themselves as self-reliant, that they did everything themselves -- without any help from the -- ugh! -- government (or anyone else). It's part of our national mythology. And it's also why the president's words, "You didn't build that," struck such a chord with Republicans (even if it was taken out of context).

So the French hate America for helping them during the wars, and Americans hate the government for helping them during this recession.

(Now all I have to figure out is why that woman in the above picture appears to be clapping.)


Joe Tracy said...

"So the French hate America for helping them during the wars, and Americans hate the government for helping them during this recession."

This seems like a stretch. It's convenient, but don't you think this is a little too black-and-white? Plus, who says the French hate America? It was my impression that this generalization was way overblown. I think what they really hate is tourists... and even then, most French people I encountered were really nice to me.

MTracy said...

You're right; "hate" may be too strong a word. How about "resent?"