Tuesday, September 16, 2008

France and World War 2

Mr. Tater just said "you're welcome" for the fact that the Nazis didn't win World War 2, in response to a very non-political post I just did about tennis. Apparently, everyone in France has to grovel and suck the toes of America until the end of history because of the Allied victory in Europe, to such an extent that a completely non-political post about tennis isn't immune from this kind of irritating smugness.

I have several points to make here.

Yes, France surrendered quickly to the Nazis in World War 2. They made some tactical errors in the face of a very well organized Nazi attack. One reason that the French surrendered so quickly is that they didn't want their cities devastated. They were trying to save lives. You're free to judge that decision on its own merits.

Northern France became occupied territory, and Southern France became a Nazi collaborator regime. Several years later, starting with the Normandy invasion, the Allied armies, including American, British, and, yes, French soldiers, liberated Europe and defeated the Nazis.

That's the history of what happened to France in World War 2, in a nutshell.

This whole right-wing meme that the French should lick the boots of the Americans for all time because we saved them from the Nazis stems from a weird, jingoistic, skewed view of history. Again, it wasn't just the Americans who liberated Europe. The Allied forces were made up of troops from a lot of different countries. The French Resistance also had a lot to do with the success of the Allied victory.

Secondly, if the French have to lick the boots of the Americans because of World War 2, then we certainly have to do some significant boot-licking ourselves.

If it weren't for the intervention of the French in the American Revolution, we'd still be a British colony today.

So, as the French would say, de rien.

Thirdly, I'm well aware of the sacrifice made by the troops who liberated Europe. When I was a kid, my Boy Scout troop camped at the beaches of Normandy, in the American cemetery. We learned the bloody history of the battle in a very up close and personal way. We explored the German bunkers, walked on the beach, wandered through the cemetery looking at the names of those who sacrificed their lives to save Europe from fascism. We went to the Normandy Memorial Museum. We met Holocaust survivors. We met World War 2 veterans and thanked them for their service.

A few years ago, the American School of Paris, which my brother and I attended while we lived in France, had its 60th anniversary celebration, and my family and I flew to Paris for the occasion. During a dinner in honor of the anniversary, there was one speaker whom I will never forget. He was a World War 2 veteran who had fought at Normandy. Even in that space, when we were celebrating the 60th anniversary of a school, we set aside time to honor those without whose sacrifice that school would never have existed. After the dinner, I went up to the veteran, I shook his hand, and I thanked him for his service. I told him, "You helped win the war."

So, Mr. Tater. Don't insinuate to me that I don't understand the sacrifice that the Allied troops made to liberate Europe from fascism. To do so is offensive, ignorant, and pig-headed, and demonstrates a knee-jerk jingoism that is the cause of many of the problems we have in this country today.

Also, since you wish to say, "You're Welcome," for said liberation, my question to you is, with which battalion did you fight in World War 2, since you were clearly there?