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Adieu to Pepe Le Pew
March 17, 2003

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

They've really gone and done it this time.

Remember the anger in the '80s when we first heard that France had said it wasn't going to let our pilots fly over its precious airspace in order to bomb Libya?

And remember in the '90s, before a last-moment capitulation, how France whined that we had no right to bomb Iraq?

Well, now the Frenchies are taking the lead in imposing containment on a nation. The only problem is their containment is meant for us.

France says it favors peace. Then it turns around and gets its oil from Saddam and sells vital parts and munitions for Iraq to possibly use against us.

The nation with the reputation for spewing arrogance while chain-smoking is now sinking in U.S. popularity polls faster than a set of dentures in a crock of bouillabaisse.

I know what you're saying. The French helped us win the Revolution. They gave us the Statue of Liberty, neon lights and bicycles. But we paid them back twice over with 100,000 American lives during World Wars I and II.

Do we really need their distracting hand gestures, snail-eating snobbery, condescending foreign ministers and miniature military?

A lot of people in the U.S. don't think so. Here are a few of the ways ticked-off Americans are expressing their displeasure:

* A restaurant in North Carolina swapped French fries on the menu with "freedom fries."
* Radio DJs in Las Vegas crushed French products with an armored car. No poodles were reported missing.
* Eighteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives called for a boycott of this year's Paris Air Show.
* A Florida bar owner dumped French liquor into the streets of West Palm Beach.

French President Jacques Chirac has conceded that there could be "superficial consequences" to a boycott. He's right about the consequences part. The French-owned Sofitel Hotel in Chicago has already pulled its French flags, presumably to keep its rooms occupied.

If we look at past results, consumer boycotts don't normally work. But as this French disconnection accelerates, politics may produce something more potent. An embargo on French imports or a higher value-added tax on French products might actually kick off a trade war. Ideas like these were proposed during the GATT negotiations but were never carried to fruition.

Organizations including our very own are sponsoring boycotts. Other disaffirming movements are spontaneously popping up across the country.

You might be surprised at some of the companies that are owned by the French. Most people expect to find Froggies owning Chanel, Cartier and Air France. But did you know that Bank of the West and First Hawaiian Bank are French institutions?

You can feel pretty good about giving up Perrier until you find out that for the satisfaction to continue you've got to forego Sparkletts as well.

If you're a determined boycotter, don't think about staying at a Motel 6 or Red Roof Inn. And as for your Nissan automobile and Krups cappuccino maker ­ they'll have to be ditched.

Forget about Bic pens, lighters and razors. Grey Poupon mustard, fancy cologne and French films with and without subtitles are all no-no's too.

Believe it or not, Motown records is no longer a U.S. concern. It's gone French. And the country that thinks Jerry Lewis is a genius owns the "Jerry Springer Show" also.

If this all seems depressing, you'll have to stop yourself from reaching for a Seagrams. If the whiskey bottles could talk, they'd answer just like Beldar Conehead with "We are from France."

Hopefully, the efforts, "superficial" as they may be, will get the attention of the French, and they'll feel enough heat to see the light.

Meanwhile, they can play a valuable role in the coalition that will ultimately strike Iraq. Who better to instruct the Iraqis on the fine art of surrender?

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2003
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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