Monday, May 09, 2005

The Unfairness of German Resentment Against the French, and What Would Have Been a More Just Situation

The other day, a Frenchwoman was explaining why she left her job, which, as far as I could gather, involved a civilian company catering in some way to the French military abroad. She got sick of "serving" with the French military in Germany, she said, because the Germans were exceedingly xenophobic. For instance, she added, she once saw a sign on the PX that read, "dogs and foreign servicemen not allowed".

I and a couple of others intervened, asking whether the sign — which sounded totally illegal, if nothing else — was an official one or a paint-up job, and how long it stayed there. Also, I wondered, was it really evidence of ugly xenophobia or might it simply have been part of a "campaign" of good-natured, give-and-take, fraternal ribbing between comrades?

Just then, the conversation changed, because a guy chimed in about the unfairness of the situation. He seemed truly bewildered:

Since 1945, they [the Germans] should not feel resentful against the French, but rather against the Americans
It would have been nice if somehow he — or one (just one) of the four or five Frenchmen present — had seen some underlying irony in what he said, or even hinted at a modicum of praise for les Américains.

But all he seemed to see was the injustice of a situation in which the French had displayed good (i.e., peaceful) "behaviour" and, insofar as it was deserved, any oppobrium could only be directed towards the war-mongering Americans. None of the others present thought it worthwhile to point out that perhaps the only correct behaviour, the only defensible one, in World War II was that adopted by Uncle Sam, and Dieu merci pour nous tous that they did as they did, earning German resentment in the process.

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