Friday, January 13, 2012

French Is Awesome

Introduction
Okay, I stay away from discussing politics (other than in private with a few very close friends).* But when one politician attacks another for speaking French, a boundary has been crossed. Enough is enough, and this is . . . asinine.



Summary
Newt Gingrich's campaign released the above video yesterday. Most of the video simply calls into question Romney's conservative credentials, but if you pay attention at the very end, the viewer is trapped into drawing a classic non sequitur that is supposed to . . .  compare Romney to John Kerry? Compare him to the French? Portray him in some indeterminate bad light? What? The narrator, in his convincingly masculine and virile movie-trailer voice, delivers this earth-shattering fact about Romney: "He speaks French." God forbid! Heaven save us from Mitt Romney, should this salacious accusation prove true.

Caveat
Neither Mitt Romney nor Newt Gingrich is my favorite politician. Neither is my least favorite either. This has nothing to do with politics. (Besides, this first came up last year when a Democratic group attacked Romney for the same reason--see the video below). This is about French, and French is awesome regardless of who does or does not speak it.



Tirade Directed Towards Any Listening Politicians or Political Groups
Attack someone for not being as conservative (or liberal) as you. Do not attack the French language. French is awesome.

Attack someone's questionable track record. Do not attack the French language. French is awesome.

Attack someone's policies. Do not attack the French language. French is awesome.

Attack someone's immorality. Do not attack the French language. French is awesome.


Attack someone's hypocrisy and lies. Do not attack the French language. French is awesome.

Whatever you and your potential supporters may think of the French language (and often, by extension, France and the French people, which is a shockingly myopic view of the geopolitics of the language), it has nothing to do with your politics. Do not attack the French language. French is awesome.

If you think that speaking French or having ties to France makes one "an elitist, European-style liberal wimp," as the BBC article shows to be the assumption on your part, then you are in the death grip of delusion and irrelevance. I speak French. I love French. I have French (and many other francophone) friends. I am not elitist. I am not liberal. I am not a wimp (unless we are talking about being in very high places, or facing extreme pain, or enduring bone-chilling temperatures . . . okay, then I'm a wimp). I may be somewhat more "European-style" in certain aspects of life than some of my friends from the South. I do not know why that is necessarily a positive or negative thing. Do not attack the French language. French is awesome.

If you attack the French language, you are probably displaying ignorance about the influence and popularity of the French language. The world speaks French, you know. Do not attack the French language. French is awesome.

In short, do not attack the French language, even by insidious insinuation. French is awesome.

In Place of a Conclusion
Okay, so the whole world doesn't really speak French. And Gingrich, Romney, and Democratic Super-PACs are in the throes of political campaigning that makes it all but impossible to resist the temptation to make totally irrelevant attacks. And French is not awesomer than other languages--they are all awesome and have nothing to do with politics if you live in this galaxy.

So yes, this post is slightly tongue-in-cheek. Nonetheless, we must all agree that politics in free-speech democracies occasionally descends to a level below nincompoopery. You are a witness.

*Why? Because, as Dave Barry very astutely points out in his review of 2011 (see the review of the month of January), "Uncivil political rhetoric [...] has been the norm in the United States for two centuries."

4 comments:

  1. I found this whole post easy to dismiss since I know what many readers of your blog may not, that you yourself are a speaker of French.

    Those funny marks all over our American letters in some of your posts—those are French marks. Which is what their currency would be called today if it weren't for us!

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  2. Oh no! You're part of the Gingrich anti-French conspiracy!

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  3. It is so telling that the campaigners can play upon American's fear of the "other." Another ad I saw was castigating Huntsman by showing him speaking Chinese, as though he were a sinister "Manchurian candidate."

    When I lived overseas the following joke was played on me: Question: what do you call someone who speaks two languages?
    My answer: bilingual.
    Next question: What do you call someone who speaks several languages?
    My answer: polylingual.
    Next question: What do you call someone who speaks only one language?
    I stumbled on this one, monolingual, perhaps?
    An AMERICAN!, my questioner quickly interjected.

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  4. Wow. What befuddles me is that saying Romney speaks French or Huntsman speaks Chinese is actually a negative thing for some viewers. It must be, or else their opponents wouldn't try those attacks. Yeesh.

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