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The French Paradox

The French Paradox, in case you didn’t know, ponders how the average Parisian can live a long healthy life on a diet of brie, pomme frittes and goose liver pate, while the average American eats the same amount of fat wrapped up in processed cheesefood, French fries and les Big Mac, only to die of heart disease at 47.  The answer, of course, is wine.  In vino veritas, there’s truth in wine, indeed, but is there wine in truth, in Pravda, maybe Pravda needs a wine column, maybe Russia needs help marketing its wine industry.  I digress.  Those ever-present studies have shown the right quantity of red wine does promote better health.  The question is, though, is it just the wine, or could the difference be attributed to something more sublime, a more difficult to quantify yet equally plausible reason, something like truth and beauty.  I could eat an entire tub of cheesefood (believe me I have), but there is something more aesthetically pleasing about a triple crиme brie on crunchy French bread.  Why?

The answer, I believe, lies in the difference between the French Open and the US Open, or between French tennis and American tennis, or between clay and concrete, power and finesse.  Or is it finesse and power?  Clay requires patience.  Americans grew up playing tennis, if they played tennis at all, on concrete slabs.  No grass, no clay.  Hot green concrete.  I recall wearing my old brown corduroys (half my Catholic school uniform) so I could dive for shots like Jimmy Connors and not end up bleeding all the way home.  Wimbledon was always watched.  Connors and Borg.  McEnroe and Borg.  McEnroe and Connors.  Chrissie Everett.  Se tre Meow.  But, I digress.  The French Open, not so much.  Not only does playing tennis on clay require patience, watching tennis on clay requires patience.  It’s kind of boring, but then so was the US Open.  On hot green concrete, you serve as hard as you can, and get the point over with, post haste.  That’s boring and offensive.

So, there you have US and French foreign policy in a nutshell.  The French are patient, yet so patient nothing seems to happen.  The Americans are in such a hurry to get it over with they rifle balls willy nilly, charge the net and everything’s over before you can say Stad Roland Garros.  Why?  We actually have a long intertwined history together.  An often overlooked point by those that loudly proclaim Pierre would be sprechen the German right now if it weren’t for us, is there would have been no America without the help of France.  The British and the French never really liked each other, I’m told.  Personally, I think it was the grass.  I mean, who ever heard of playing tennis on a lawn.  Lawns are for mowing and weeding and spreading chemicals on, but I digress.

If the French helped the American democratic revolutionaries to defeat the British; and the Americans helped the French and the British help defeat the Germans, who did the British help?  Or are they helping the US defeat The Arabs?  Again, the better question might be why.  Why do Americans feel compelled to serve hard and charge while the French volley back and forth on that pretty red clay?  Who are these Americans?  Some would say we are just Europeans who left home.  There sure are a lot of Asians here, though, and Arabs, and Africans, and everyone else.  To paraphrase David Byrne, “How did we get here?  This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife.”  Some Brit once said, Americans are bold and impatient because they came from the stock of people who had had enough and just up and left for the New World.  Which is true.  More true than we can possibly imagine.  Take, the Bering Strait…please.  It was once a land bridge to Asia.  It is speculated that all native Americans (North, South and Central), all Eskimo, Indian, Aztec, Incan, Mayan, Iroquois, Sioux, Snohomish, you name it, they’re all Asian.  The Siberians, Mongolians, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, et al still in Asia are just the ones averse to cold that didn’t want to make the trip.  And, the Africans, well a lot of them didn’t want to make the trip, but they kind of did anyway.  It’s been real easy for a long time to take the moral high ground and claim injustice, but the facts dictate Africans played a hand in displacing Africans, too, and that was quite a long time ago, so it might just be about time we gave that a rest.  But, I digress.

The European Americans moving across the continent from the east ran into those old Asians who had gotten quite comfortable living that idealized life in the woods.  Forget for a moment as everyone does that the native American Indian tribes butchered and slaughtered each other just as badly as every other group of humans around the globe could, ie to the best of their ability.  For one reason or another the European Americans were just better at butchering and slaughtering.  It’s enough to make a sarcastic European American like myself proud.  They came, they built forts, they killed and settled.  We still have those forts, except now they’re called “gated communities.”  We try and try to keep everyone out never realizing we are everyone.  Fast forward to the 1930s and Japan needs oil and some breathing room so they go all imperial on us, raping and conquering.  Frankly, I think they were just lonely.  Isolated as they were for so long, and then they have that little war with Russia in 1905, and hey they win!  Well, it was pretty much a draw, but Teddy Roosevelt came in to arbitrate and he ruled Russia’s shot was just over the line.  Russia went McEnroe, but in diplomatic circles screaming and hollering doesn’t get you much.  So, Japan had that win under their belt and they sat on their laurels for awhile and then thought, you know we had so much luck the last time why don’t we give that war thing another shot.  They woke the sleeping giant, though, and the giant then had to put those people in their own forts, places called Manzanar and Minidoka.  Very unpleasant, no tennis at all.  Baseball, but no tennis.

At the same time there were bad Germans and bad Italians and they formed the original Axis of Evil with those bad Japanese.  They were old school cool, which is always better than the contrived new imitations.  In being the real deal, though, they lacked a certain compunction, they didn’t mind killing people.  This made them bad.  Americans decided they needed to kill them to stop them from killing more people.  This made Americans good.  Franklin Roosevelt (Teddy’s cousin) rounded up all those Japanese and put them into camps (it might have been in ex post facto disputation with his long gone cousin’s decision in 1905, but that is mere speculation).  There were some German Americans interned, but people don’t really talk about that.  I think the Italian Americans drank red wine.  Which brings me back to my point.  Wine is good and we should all drink more of it and be healthy.  Especially Russian wine, it’s good, it’s good for you and it’s good for the global economy, whatever that is.  Just do it.  Think different.  Think about Chris Everett…meow…oops, I digress.

Jeff Wenker