I Am Joe’s Blog:

July 22, 2007 • 7:37 PM

Striking a Nerve

Since I announced that we’d moved to France (both on this blog and on Interesting Thing of the Day), I’ve received lots and lots of feedback—some in comments, but most by email. The vast majority of people who have written have been enthusiastic that we’re doing something we really want to do; more than a few people have said they would love to do something similar.

But today, I got two messages, from two different senders (neither of them known to me), along the same lines:

Message 1:

Enjoy France, That is just enough information for me to remove you from my homepage. I do not have any love for France.

Message 2:

I liked this better before I learned you had bailed the good old U.S. of A. and fled to subversive France.

I would like to be understanding, sympathetic, conciliatory. But…seriously? You honestly mean to say that you liked me, or at least my writing, until you found out that I’m living in France—and that alone is a complete deal-breaker? Really? Every single person who steps within the borders of France, for any reason, is anathema to you? It boggles my mind.

I can only guess what’s prompting these comments. My supposition is that they’re from people who are unhappy about France’s military nonparticipation in the Middle East conflicts. People who, in protest, (still) eat Freedom Fries. I don’t know this to be the case, but it seems likely.

If my guess is correct, and if that’s the only rationale behind these comments, then I feel even sadder about the quality of education in the United States than I did before, because clearly some basic facts about France haven’t gotten through. Politically speaking, France is considerably more conservative, on the whole, than the U.S.—and it just elected a very conservative president who’s a big fan of George W. Bush. There’s also much more popular support for the military here than in the States. (On the other hand, there’s also (at least here in Paris) vastly more acceptance of people with other cultural backgrounds, especially people from Muslim countries.)

Those important facts aside, the whole notion of saying that because a country’s political leaders made certain decisions, the whole country is bad (or good) is incomprehensible to me. The United States has millions of patriotic, flag-waving Democrats who have disagreed with pretty much everything Bush has done but still love their country, and France, too, has plenty of citizens whose views on war differ from those of their leaders. How anyone can paint an entire country—tens or hundreds of millions of people—with the same brush is beyond me.

So, for the record, my moving to France has nothing whatsoever to do with my political views about either country. Good bread is good bread, regardless of who you do or don’t want to shoot.