France still a hot topic on college campuses

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Thursday, April 21, 2005

On Monday residents of an apartment building just outside of Paris discovered a World War II bomb lodged in their chimney. Officials were able to defuse the device, reports All Headline News. However, there are other remnants of the World Wars that have been much more difficult for the French to defuse.

The prevalence of anti-French sentiments reached a frenzied zenith prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. While it seemed that the storm had calmed recently, this week's release of Richard Chesnoff's latest book, The Arrogance of the French: Why They Can't Stand Us--and Why the Feeling Is Mutual, reminds us that this issue is not going away anytime soon. While there have been fewer sightings of "liberty toast" in recent months, from discussions with students in both the U.S. and France, this reporter found that America's perception of the French remains a hot topic of discussion on college campuses.

Bryan Doeg, a military science student at the University of Central Florida, outlined the two prevailing thoughts that are the basis for many of these anti-French sentiments.

"Most of my fellow students feel that the French are politically and militarily weak," said Doeg. "And their people are stuck up."

Doeg believes that he and his classmates are not without reason for their perceptions about the French.

"They are weak because of France's decline in power over the last century and it's defeats against the Germans and Algerians," Doeg said. "And most of my experiences regarding their arrogance comes from soldiers who visited France and were treated like untouchables by the locals."

Southwest Missouri State (SMS) finance major, Fabian Florant, got straight to the point when discussing Doeg's first assumption that the French are weak.

"Americans hate the French with a passion because of World War I and II," Florant said.

However some students pointed to France's involvement in the American Revolution, questioning how long America's memory really is.

Jessica Morgan, an SMS English major, said that this and other examples have shown that France is far from being weak.

"They stood up against Hitler when he was in his prime for months before he occupied their country," Morgan said. The fact that by the time we got there, the Germans were a heck of a lot weaker than they were when the French had to face them doesn't seem to register."

Morgan emphasized that France's refusal to support U.S. war efforts is a resounding display of strength.

"It's somewhat ironic that we call them weak," Morgan said. "They stood up to the U.S. as well, daring the disapproval of the U.S. ... and all we can do is throw childish insults back at them."

Lysiane Lavorel, a native of France and college student studying English there, offered a tongue-in-cheek response to France's supposed weakness while making reference to the 1996 film Independence Day.

"As for the French being weak, it's true that in comparison with the strong and good Americans preventing aliens from invading the Earth, we are more than weak," Lavorel said. "It's true that we don't have any real impact on the world, and I find it much more comfortable that way ... I wouldn't want to feel responsible for a war, for example."

Doeg's second assumption is that the French are arrogant, and Lavorel agrees again.

"Yes of course, I think we French are very arrogant," Lavorel said.

Lavorel went on to explain her definition of French arrogance.

"It's quite hard for us to see how people [Americans] seem to be so easily manipulated by government, big firms or media," Lavorel said. "Because for most French, we have learned to become skeptical, doubtful and to make our own opinion on things. This appears to be very arrogant, doesn't it?"

However, she pointed out that this is especially true of Parisians, from which she says many of American's perceptions about the French are based.

"Even in France, they [Parisians] are said to be arrogant," Lavorel said. "They are said to consider France as only composed of Paris, and provincial people are just hillbillies."

An American student at a California university, who asked to remain anonymous to prevent the damage of his reputation among colleagues, said that he would describe 90 percent of the Parisians he has met as being arrogant.

"In an academic setting, this arrogance is particularly frustrating," the source said. "Often the Parisians I know belittle other people when they understand a complicated concept better than another person.

"On one occasion, a Parisian made a fool out of a good friend of mine," the source said. "My friend asked him how to model the eigenfunction of a microdisk resonator with finite-differences time-domain. He said 'everyone knows you can derive these fields analytically."

The source said that he is not perpetuating these stereotypes and that his preconceived notions do not alter how he perceives these interactions.

"Often I'll hear someone say something like, 'Oh and be careful when you meet him--he's French," the source said. "But you know, 99 percent of the time, all of the stereotypes prove to be perfectly true and the warning is useful."

SMS media student Lydia Mann, who visited France for two weeks recently and has hosted two French foreign exchange students, said that these perceptions are based upon cultural differences.

"Americans, I think, misunderstand their culture which leads to their actions," Mann said. "They make a point to make themselves individualistic, which people find rude."

SMS English major Christin Green agrees and believes that this entire discussion that attempts to blanket such a large group of people is ridiculous.

"I want to learn about them with an open mind and a fresh perspective, unpolluted by bias or preconceived ideas," Green said. "It is not my place to judge or make assumptions about an entire people. There are bad people everywhere. There are good people everywhere. Stereotypes ruin this foundation and build another one that is much more destructive."


Original reporting
This article contains first-hand journalism by a Wikinews Reporter. See the talk page or the article's notes for details.