September 28, 2000: To the French: Qui t’a demande? (‘Who asked you?’)

Pardon me if I am a little grincheux (that’s French for ‘cranky’) today, but I am more than offended that France’s Atlanta-based consul general, Jean-Paul Monchau has decided to stick his nez (that’s French for ‘nose’) where it doesn’t belong.

As a representative of the French government, his job should be to foster good relationships among le Francais and Les Etats Unis but Monsieur Monchau seems to have a more important agenda. He wants the state of Georgia to declare a moratorium on capital punishment and states his intention of seeing that moratorium made permanent.  He has put the sauvage (That’s French for ‘ignorant hillbilly rednecks’) on notice that his country is “firmly opposed to capital punishment, remains dedicated to its abolition and will continue to deeply deploy all its effort in that direction.”

Let me say this nettement (That’s French for ‘clear as a bell’) to Monsieur Monchau: Occupe-toi de ce qui te regarde.  (That’s French for ‘Keep you damned nose our of our business.’)  I can’t be more nettement than that.

It seems a part of the American culture to allow a bunch of pipsqueaks to tell us what is wrong with us as we wring our hands in shame.  My daddy used to say, “You don’t have to be smart; you just have to know who is smarter than you are.”  I don’t find any of our critics doing a better job of running their country than we do in running ours.  Yet the French, of all people, are criticizing the way we administer our law.  Like a lot of people, I wonder from time to time whether capital punishment is morally right, but I don’t need the Land of the Guillotine appointing itself our moral arbiter.  If the French don’t have enough to worry about, let me suggest they take a look at their own country.  There are a lot of words that can be translated from French to English, but I don’t think “work ethic” is among them.  If there is even a suggestion of cutting back the 10 hour work week and the 40 weeks of paid vacation in Le Boondoggleville, workers rush out and block all the highways, an exercise for which I assume they are being handsomely paid.

As I have watched the Japanese fumble and stumble through the Bridgestone/Firestone crisis, I am reminded of the number of meetings I attended in my corporate career where we agonized over the specter of the Japanese coming in and taking over our economy.  In retrospect, that time could have been better spent learning to macramé.  One meeting was devoted to an intense study of Honda’s global strategy.  It turns out that Honda’s grand scheme was making engines and then finding things in which to put those engines, like lawn mowers and cars.  I knew it was time for me to retire because that revelation failed to overwhelm me.  You can put an engine in a fruitcake but you need to be able to market it, service it and build trust in it – something we do much better than the Japanese. While Ford doesn’t deserve a gold star for the handling of its current crisis, they have done a damn sight better than Mitsubishi who hid customer complaints for 20 years.

We have people clamoring to get into the United States where the only thing that holds anyone back from achieving success is the amount of effort they are willing to expend.  Once here, their first demand is that we learn their language.  I don’t want to learn their language.  They need to learn English like the millions of immigrants who preceded them.  Many countries require English in their schools because of the dominance of the language, but here the pressure is on us to learn the immigrant’s language.  Only in America – Land of the Free and Home of the Hyphen.

For some strange reason, we feel it necessary to self-flagellate as though we are embarrassed to be the wealthiest, strongest and most successful country on earth.  We give money to everybody with a hand out – which includes most nations on earth – and then meekly accept their criticisms as proof of our own inferiority.

Well, I draw the line with Jean-Paul Monchau.  If he doesn’t like the way we run things in Georgia, I would suggest to him, Il ne faut pas que la porte tel frappe en partant.  (That’s French for “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”)

Au revoir!