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.

Comments

  1. Richard Garrett
    July 23rd, 2007 | 8:05 pm

    Enjoy the experience! I traveled to France and much of Europe when I was in the US Navy back in the 70’s and would go back in a minute.

  2. Richard Garrett
    July 23rd, 2007 | 10:05 pm

    Enjoy the experience! I traveled to France and much of Europe when I was in the US Navy back in the 70’s and would go back in a minute.

  3. July 23rd, 2007 | 9:52 pm

    Richard: Thanks – I certainly will!

  4. July 23rd, 2007 | 11:52 pm

    Richard: Thanks – I certainly will!

  5. July 24th, 2007 | 3:59 pm

    […] I described our decision to move to France in an article on Interesting Thing of the Day: La Chose Intéressante du Jour. That contains most of the details of what we’re doing and why. It’s been interesting to read the comments and email messages that article has generated. Lots of people have either welcomed us to Europe or congratulated us on our decision. Several have said that they, too, have dreamed of doing something like this—of these, some still consider it a viable possibility while others don’t. And a few have expressed puzzlement, resentment, or even antipathy: “How could you possibly think France is better than the United States?” … “People with real lives don’t have the luxury to do such a thing” … “France is no friend of ours, so neither are you.” I said a few words about the more extreme examples of such comments in Striking a Nerve. […]

  6. Shannon Forbes
    July 26th, 2007 | 1:58 pm

    Dear Joe Kissell and Family – I saw your reference to the “booming city of Ithaca” while perusing “Interesting Thing of the Day” (which I just LOVE) and then noticed that you live in France. I live in the also-booming city of Casper, Wyoming (read oilfield boom). We have friends from France who visited here a couple years ago and my Mom, who is almost 88, had the bright idea of borrowing tha French flag from a local patisserie (propietors from Francais) to fly outside our door upon their grand arrival. The only other thing we needed was maybe DeGaulle striding up the front walk singing La Marseillaise. I think we did actually hum a few bars. We gave them the Wyoming Hysterical Tour, and they loved every moment of their trip. We joked a lot re the old Coneheads line, “Tell ’em you’re from France” and everyone had a wonderful time. We found them to be delightful ambassadors. I am gled to see an American family living in France and doing the same. Vive la mem chose… Vive la difference! (Pardon my half-remembered French.) Annonshay in Whyoming (Shannon Forbes)

  7. Shannon Forbes
    July 26th, 2007 | 3:58 pm

    Dear Joe Kissell and Family – I saw your reference to the “booming city of Ithaca” while perusing “Interesting Thing of the Day” (which I just LOVE) and then noticed that you live in France. I live in the also-booming city of Casper, Wyoming (read oilfield boom). We have friends from France who visited here a couple years ago and my Mom, who is almost 88, had the bright idea of borrowing tha French flag from a local patisserie (propietors from Francais) to fly outside our door upon their grand arrival. The only other thing we needed was maybe DeGaulle striding up the front walk singing La Marseillaise. I think we did actually hum a few bars. We gave them the Wyoming Hysterical Tour, and they loved every moment of their trip. We joked a lot re the old Coneheads line, “Tell ’em you’re from France” and everyone had a wonderful time. We found them to be delightful ambassadors. I am gled to see an American family living in France and doing the same. Vive la mem chose… Vive la difference! (Pardon my half-remembered French.) Annonshay in Whyoming (Shannon Forbes)

  8. July 26th, 2007 | 7:55 pm

    Shannon: Thanks so much for that story! Who’d have guessed they’d find a little corner of France in Wyoming?

  9. July 26th, 2007 | 9:55 pm

    Shannon: Thanks so much for that story! Who’d have guessed they’d find a little corner of France in Wyoming?

  10. Lauren
    July 27th, 2007 | 2:40 pm

    This is my pet peeve. When I came back to the US from my study abroad in Marseille, and naturally had a lot of stories to tell, much of it was received with negative reaction. One person, almost innocently, said, “So who’s got it better? The USA or France?” I am strangely convinced that some folks actually think people in France are living in tents and don’t have lightbulbs. They simply do not know anything (except the “bad”, like France’s “backing out” of aiding us in the Middle East… for which I can’t blame them), and have no desire to ever visit a foreign country. And the people that have the nerve to display the anti-France bumper stickers on their cars…?

  11. Lauren
    July 27th, 2007 | 4:40 pm

    This is my pet peeve. When I came back to the US from my study abroad in Marseille, and naturally had a lot of stories to tell, much of it was received with negative reaction. One person, almost innocently, said, “So who’s got it better? The USA or France?” I am strangely convinced that some folks actually think people in France are living in tents and don’t have lightbulbs. They simply do not know anything (except the “bad”, like France’s “backing out” of aiding us in the Middle East… for which I can’t blame them), and have no desire to ever visit a foreign country. And the people that have the nerve to display the anti-France bumper stickers on their cars…?

  12. July 27th, 2007 | 4:13 pm

    Lauren: Thanks for your comments. From what I’ve seen, about the same percentage of people live in tents and lack lightbulbs here as in San Francisco (a very small, but nonzero, number). On the whole, Paris seems to be much more technologically and socially sophisticated than most parts of the U.S. And I agree that it’s highly irritating when people make criticisms out of sheer ignorance!

  13. July 27th, 2007 | 6:13 pm

    Lauren: Thanks for your comments. From what I’ve seen, about the same percentage of people live in tents and lack lightbulbs here as in San Francisco (a very small, but nonzero, number). On the whole, Paris seems to be much more technologically and socially sophisticated than most parts of the U.S. And I agree that it’s highly irritating when people make criticisms out of sheer ignorance!

  14. CriticizingOutOfSheerIgnorance
    August 1st, 2007 | 2:36 pm

    Cmon Joe, I love your blog, and usually just take your subtle ITOTD intro jabs at Christianity or men or ‘the South’ or whatever with a grain of salt (after all, California IS the center of the universe ;) – just kidding)

    BUT, with that said, I couldn’t let this jab pass me by: “(France has) more acceptance of people with other cultural backgrounds, especially people from Muslim countries”

    yeah, i guess Muslim youths are torching cars because they are being accepted too much?? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_civil_unrest_in_France

    BY THE WAY, I lived in Europe for a summer in college and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT, so good luck to you — but — as a white man (i saw your pic on your site), you will NOT encounter the ‘real europe’ — my fellow black classmates were constantly harassed and called names for ‘black’, an overweight classmate was hooted at by French men, and in the south of France a snively young ‘educated’ couple threw down their forks and left the second one of us started coughing (as we should have) at their cigarette smoke.

    I’m saying I LOVED Europe – but but but – THE UNITED STATES IS MORE TOLERANT THAN ANY PART OF FRANCE – I know, I know, we have been told we aren’t, but seriously — how many race riots have we had in the last 10 years? Compared to France, we’re heaven! We have folks of every faith or no faith at all in Congress, in the Cabinet, in the diplomatic corps; every tv show for kids or adults has casts including handicapped individuals, a variety of differing races, or gay Americans….. even take your ‘Muslim’ example! 9-11 happens, where a group of Muslims kills 3000 Americans out of their religion…. and in a country of 300 Million americans, with 250 million guns, you mean to tell me not ONE SINGLE MUSLIM is killed out of ‘revenge’? No, seriously. People go postal all the time, heck, after Pearl Harbor, FDR sent many thousand Japanese inland… and yet not ONE ‘vigilante’ redneck decides to take out his justice versus a Muslim? With guns everywhere?

    Yeah, we are TOTALLY intolerant over here (scoffs)

    The best kept secret between Europe and America is that THEY are the intolerant bunch and WE are the politically correct bunch

    (reminds me of the time a Brit friend was bashing our news for being ‘propaganda’…. I said ‘have you ever seen CNN then watched Fox? have you ever listened to Air America then listened to Rush Limbaugh? how can you possibly say that WE are being fed propaganda? your precious BBC has admitted twice in the last year how some ‘human interest’ stories were totally fabricated! how can you say WE are being duped?’ to which my brit friend responded “……er…..CORPORATIONS!”)

    Good luck in France, but please stop believing the lie that America is LESS tolerant than our European cousins

  15. CriticizingOutOfSheerIgnoranceIGuess
    August 1st, 2007 | 4:36 pm

    Cmon Joe, I love your blog, and usually just take your subtle ITOTD intro jabs at Christianity or men or ‘the South’ or whatever with a grain of salt (after all, California IS the center of the universe ;) – just kidding)

    BUT, with that said, I couldn’t let this jab pass me by: “(France has) more acceptance of people with other cultural backgrounds, especially people from Muslim countries”

    yeah, i guess Muslim youths are torching cars because they are being accepted too much?? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_civil_unrest_in_France

    BY THE WAY, I lived in Europe for a summer in college and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT, so good luck to you — but — as a white man (i saw your pic on your site), you will NOT encounter the ‘real europe’ — my fellow black classmates were constantly harassed and called names for ‘black’, an overweight classmate was hooted at by French men, and in the south of France a snively young ‘educated’ couple threw down their forks and left the second one of us started coughing (as we should have) at their cigarette smoke.

    I’m saying I LOVED Europe – but but but – THE UNITED STATES IS MORE TOLERANT THAN ANY PART OF FRANCE – I know, I know, we have been told we aren’t, but seriously — how many race riots have we had in the last 10 years? Compared to France, we’re heaven! We have folks of every faith or no faith at all in Congress, in the Cabinet, in the diplomatic corps; every tv show for kids or adults has casts including handicapped individuals, a variety of differing races, or gay Americans….. even take your ‘Muslim’ example! 9-11 happens, where a group of Muslims kills 3000 Americans out of their religion…. and in a country of 300 Million americans, with 250 million guns, you mean to tell me not ONE SINGLE MUSLIM is killed out of ‘revenge’? No, seriously. People go postal all the time, heck, after Pearl Harbor, FDR sent many thousand Japanese inland… and yet not ONE ‘vigilante’ redneck decides to take out his justice versus a Muslim? With guns everywhere?

    Yeah, we are TOTALLY intolerant over here (scoffs)

    The best kept secret between Europe and America is that THEY are the intolerant bunch and WE are the politically correct bunch

    (reminds me of the time a Brit friend was bashing our news for being ‘propaganda’…. I said ‘have you ever seen CNN then watched Fox? have you ever listened to Air America then listened to Rush Limbaugh? how can you possibly say that WE are being fed propaganda? your precious BBC has admitted twice in the last year how some ‘human interest’ stories were totally fabricated! how can you say WE are being duped?’ to which my brit friend responded “……er…..CORPORATIONS!”)

    Good luck in France, but please stop believing the lie that America is LESS tolerant than our European cousins

  16. August 1st, 2007 | 3:21 pm

    Criticizing: Thanks for your comments. I guess we have different ideas of what “acceptance” means, and perhaps different experiences within the US too. Let me put it a different way: Your average person on the street here of European descent is not overtly suspicious of, or afraid of, the average person on the street here of Middle Eastern descent. (I’m speaking, by the way, as the resident of a neighborhood with a very high Middle Eastern population.) Even in a culturally “enlightened” place such as San Francisco, that was clearly not the case.

    There are some shining examples of tolerance in the US and awful instances of intolerance here. No doubt about it. All I’m saying is, from my experiences and observations so far, Paris seems vastly friendlier to people from Muslim countries than any US city I know of. Paris, and my part of Paris in particular, may be different from the rest of France, and I’ve lived in only a few cities in the US, so take that observation for what it’s worth.

    That said, I think it’s a fair criticism (of both of us) that one shouldn’t make sweeping generalizations of any sort about an entire country, even in the very effort of saying how such generalizations are bad! ;-)

    I’d like to encourage you, by way of promoting tolerance, acceptance, and open dialog, to use your real name. If you have strong beliefs, which clearly you do, stand behind them, rather than hiding behind an alias.

  17. August 1st, 2007 | 5:21 pm

    Criticizing: Thanks for your comments. I guess we have different ideas of what “acceptance” means, and perhaps different experiences within the US too. Let me put it a different way: Your average person on the street here of European descent is not overtly suspicious of, or afraid of, the average person on the street here of Middle Eastern descent. (I’m speaking, by the way, as the resident of a neighborhood with a very high Middle Eastern population.) Even in a culturally “enlightened” place such as San Francisco, that was clearly not the case.

    There are some shining examples of tolerance in the US and awful instances of intolerance here. No doubt about it. All I’m saying is, from my experiences and observations so far, Paris seems vastly friendlier to people from Muslim countries than any US city I know of. Paris, and my part of Paris in particular, may be different from the rest of France, and I’ve lived in only a few cities in the US, so take that observation for what it’s worth.

    That said, I think it’s a fair criticism (of both of us) that one shouldn’t make sweeping generalizations of any sort about an entire country, even in the very effort of saying how such generalizations are bad! ;-)

    I’d like to encourage you, by way of promoting tolerance, acceptance, and open dialog, to use your real name. If you have strong beliefs, which clearly you do, stand behind them, rather than hiding behind an alias.

  18. August 21st, 2007 | 3:10 pm

    I’m posting the following on behalf of craig, who had some trouble with our spam-prevention system (sorry about that!):

    Criticize:As a Brit myself, I was not sure what to think when I read your comment. I don’t want to start an argument, but what you have said was extremely unfair. In Joe’s article he said that you could not judge a whole country by one person. I could name several disagreeable Americans in this country. It’s true, a country can’t be perfect. In fact, the opposite, most countries are highly imperfect. In such a huge community people are always going to argue, disrespect, disagree and numerous other problems. I could name you several Brits I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole and several Americans too. Before you criticize other countries make sure you don’t turn a blind eye to your own. Besides, it’s not as if anyone gets any choice what nationality they are so it’s not very fair to criticize them for it. Joke by all means, but don’t take it too far.

  19. August 21st, 2007 | 5:10 pm

    I’m posting the following on behalf of craig, who had some trouble with our spam-prevention system (sorry about that!):

    Criticize:As a Brit myself, I was not sure what to think when I read your comment. I don’t want to start an argument, but what you have said was extremely unfair. In Joe’s article he said that you could not judge a whole country by one person. I could name several disagreeable Americans in this country. It’s true, a country can’t be perfect. In fact, the opposite, most countries are highly imperfect. In such a huge community people are always going to argue, disrespect, disagree and numerous other problems. I could name you several Brits I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole and several Americans too. Before you criticize other countries make sure you don’t turn a blind eye to your own. Besides, it’s not as if anyone gets any choice what nationality they are so it’s not very fair to criticize them for it. Joke by all means, but don’t take it too far.

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