Sunday, March 25, 2007

France vs. USA

Last night Alex and I were nestled into our rather uncozy apartment, at work on our respective novels, when came a soft knock on the door. I opened up to find two of our co-residents who call this little, subdivided house in La Roche-sur-Yon, France home. The problem, one of them explained, was that we make too much noise. Specifically, we slam the door of our communal bathroom in the wee hours of the morning. I quickly apologized and assumed the matter was settled. The intruding reek of alcoholic breath should have told me otherwise. The fun was only beginning

The second party, unsatisfied, quickly dove into a anti-American rant. You Americans always leave the bathroom door open, he complained, and you slam it all the time. We countered that he had thrown a party the past weekend that kept us up until 6 AM. That's different, he answered. One has the right to throw a party, but I'm going to kill you Americans. He punctuated his death threat by "shooting" us (sound effects and all) three times with his finger.

We promptly slammed and locked the door.

Our friendly neighbors did not go away, but kept knocking, and, when I threatened to call the police, they laughed. The police were called and quickly came, and the disturbance was dragged away in handcuffs (not before the anti-American decided to come at us again, no less than six cops present, telling us to go back to America). Today they are back, and we are looking frantically for a new place to live.

All this because of a difference in origin (and a substatial intake of liquor). I've always detested nationalism and that fellow sentiment that is hatred of another based on nationality. We have spent the past year and a half living in France. There are aspects of the culture I admire, and other parts I would change. None of that affects my regard for the French people as a whole. I feel exactly that way about my native land. A great person is a great person. A shithead is a shithead. You don't need a passport to tell the difference.

Nationalism is the sentiment that allows us to cheer our country on as we drop bombs in an unjust war. Nationalism gives rise to the likes of Hitler. Nationalism rates right there with racism or sexism in my book, a dangerous and devisive tool of intolerance, and another "ism" that the world could happily do without. This is no knock on culture, mind you. Cultural diversity is what makes the world beautiful. Borders are what I'm talking about, those artificial lines that say keep out, or you'll be safe in here.

These men, I presume, have never been to the United States. I'm certain I'm being generous in calling their knowledge of US culture limited. One way to mollify their hatred would be to start learning. These two would rather have us dead.


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