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By Pam Burke 

We didn't ask for it, but we might deserve it


October 11, 2013

I never thought I'd say this — ever — but I think Americans should be more like the people of France: We need a good old-fashioned French-fried riot.

This point is best served with a little background information about my longstanding disdain of the French over their even longer-standing disdain of, well, everything not French — which is quite a bit if you look at a map of the world.

I had no opinion of France or its people, many of which I'm sure are exceptional, until I was forced, under threat of not graduating, to take two college courses in which the instructor attempted to instill in my language-challenged brain the ability to read and speak the French language. A subtle undercurrent to the classes was the hope we would learn to appreciate and even love the French culture.

That hope backfired on me.

I, apparently, have little to no aptitude for foreign languages. I can, with dogged persistence, learn to read another language long enough to take a test, then my brain purges the hard-won skill set.

Speaking another language is virtually impossible.

The harder I try, the more I sound like an illiterate hick. “Pahr-lay voo Englee-speaking?” I ask in “Pam-French” because, yes, speaking French gives me a pronounced, oddly deep-South accent from whatever fictional region Larry the Cable Guy is from.

The more we learned about the beauty and perfection of the French language, the greater my resistance.

The language has male and female verbs and word-endings for almost everything, but they have no rhyme or reason in the usage. A man's shirt has female wording. What's that about?

It's as if I said in English: “I drove in my girl car to the boy stoplight and took a boy right to the boy store where I bought a girl shirt for my gender-neutral husband.” Only the sentence is all garbled in French like: “My girl car I drove to the boy stoplight and boy right took the boy store to a girl shirt bought I for my gender-neutral husband.”

Yoda couldn't even understand that, yet they're so sure of their language superiority that they have laws prohibiting all commercial and workplace usage of any language other than French to preserve the language's purity from ugly foreign word-invasions.

You buy a Dell or Apple “ordinateur” in France, or someone is getting arrested for selling computers. Grocery stores can't even sell a potato, they sell a “pomme de terre” … which literally translates to “apple of earth.” What?

You know what that means, right?

You wouldn't buy a Mr. Potato Head toy, either. You would buy “Monsieur Pomme de Terre la Tete” — better translated as “Mister Apple of Earth the (Girl) Head.”

That's so much better than English how? Thus was born my disdain of the disdainful French.

All that said, the continued U.S. congressional stalemate forcing a second week of federal shutdowns of the great United States of America compounded by the complete lackadaisical response by the U.S. citizenry has me rethinking my stance on the French because the French people, they do love a good old-fashioned crazy-eyed riot.

In May 2005, after two teens were electrocuted to death in a power substation while hiding from police, riots ensued in 274 cities. Thousands of cars were torched, one person died (which is a little excessive), 2,900 people were arrested, three schools were burned, hundreds of policemen were attacked along with several power substations, and one wine festival erupted into violence.

It was later determined that the wine festival riot was an unrelated, stand-alone event — apparently fermented grapes can polarize a crowd, too.

In 2010, protests, strikes and riots broke out across the country because economic reforms allowed continued tax breaks for the rich while raising the pension-collecting retirement age by two years. Millions of people participated, shutting down most air and rail travel, halting garbage pickup for three weeks, cutting off fuel refining, and closing schools. Rubber bullets and tear gas filled the riotous air, but the people cared enough to shut down the country themselves.

The U.S. government shuts down our country and Congress proves to be too incompetent to deserve their supposed 5 percent approval rating, and what do Americans do? Complain on Facebook, tweet snarky comments, blog memes and yell at the TV.

We can't even muster enough outrage to organize an Occupy Washington, D.C., sleepover … except in Congress where no one is awake.

(To re-coin an old phrase: Be careful who you vote for, you may just get what you deserve. Go ahead and complain to pam@viewfromthenorth40.com.)


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