March 7, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Salt on Old Wounds

I heard of the French people's legendary arrogance long before I experienced it firsthand in 2001. And of course, news junkie that I am, I've seen the tide of anti-Americanism in France rise ever higher during the current Iraq crisis. But that's okay. After my visit to Paris, I grew more anti-French, so they're just as entitled to their opinion as I am mine. But something I read today pushed me over the edge—far over the edge. My blood boiled when I found out French protesters recently carried around signs like the one pictured here, with swastikas painted on the American flag.

Like any writer and patriotic American, I wholly support freedom of speech (even though the European Union does not). I may abhor such a hateful representation of our flag, but I grudgingly respect the protesters' right to express themselves. Still, it really pisses me off.

Considering such defacement of the American flag summarily—that is, without contemplating any historical context—it is merely offensive. It's no different than the flag-burning we've seen around the world for decades. But it makes all the difference that French people are carrying such a flag. From the perspective of any American with a high school-level knowledge of World War II, such "free speech" is appalling.

Perhaps the intervening 58 years have clouded the memory of the French people, but it was American G.I.s, charging across a Normandy beach strewn with their fallen comrades, who liberated France from the butchers who wore swastikas. Nearly 10,000 soldiers lie in the cemetery overlooking that beach. By scrawling swastikas on American flags and waving them in the streets, the French protesters are spitting on those graves.

Still, it's not the insult to the dead American heroes that makes me most angry. They probably look down from heaven with pity for these protesters, knowing they'll eventually find their way to that other, hotter place. What really troubles me, what really burns me, is the thought of all the still-living World War II veterans who might see or read about such protests. In the sunset of their lives, they deserve respect and gratitude. Instead, the French people they liberated have heaped salt on wounds that never fully healed.

I think the French flag is the one in need of a makeover:




Editor's Note: My apologies to Romania, whose blue/yellow/red flag resembles the one above. 


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Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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3/6: 3/3/03, 3:33 p.m.
3/5: Beer Day
3/4: Pulling the Trigger
3/3: Make 'Em Laugh
3/2: Whither Iraq?
3/1: Strickland Cellars
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