I haven't cared much for the French since some weenie named Jean-Paul Monchau came to Atlanta a few years ago as France's consul general. He'd barely unpacked his bags before he announced that he intended to have the state of Georgia declare a moratorium on capital punishment and that he intended to see that the moratorium became permanent.
He said that his country was "firmly opposed to capital punishment, remains dedicated to its abolition and will continue to deeply deploy all its efforts in that direction." Remember: This man was a guest in our country and came from the nation that invented the guillotine.
That's like inviting a stranger to your outdoor barbecue and having him announce that you are an animal killer and that he intends to make your neighborhood vegetarian even before the ribs are browned. Other than an appearance at a peace conference at the President Peanut Center for Goodness and Light, Monsieur Monchau didn't hang around Atlanta long. Last I heard he was ambassador to Costa Rica. Maybe he is down there saving whales or darter snakes. Or maybe a shark bit him in the butt.
I am happy to report, though, that my respect for France has changed since Mr. Smarty-Pants left our state. For one thing, France has a new hard-nosed president better than the one we've got and a lot better than whichever one we will elect. His name is Nicolas Sarkozy. He doesn't seem to worry near as much about how we treat murderers in Georgia as he does how others treat his own country.
A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of African immigrants who now live in France (I think the politically correct New York Times would call them African-French dips) jeered the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise," before a recent rugby match between the French national team and a team from Tunisia.
Monseiur Sarkozy blew his stack at their bad manners. He called the incident "scandalous." His prime minister, François Fillon, said, "It's a lack of consideration and respect for an entire nation." The minister of sport said future games would be canceled if fans disrespect the anthem.
Now compare that with our own country. Josh Howard, a professional basketball player for the Dallas Mavericks, was filmed at a charity flag football game during the playing of our national anthem saying, "‘The Star-Spangled Banner' is going on. I don't even celebrate that (bleep). I'm black."
This guy gets paid $9,945,000 a year to bounce a ball in short pants and toss it through an orange metal ring, contributing nothing beneficial to civilization except to keep sports writers employed. Had he been in France and smarted off about "La Marseillaise," there is a very good chance that President Sarkozy or one of his ministers of something-or-other would have shoved his short pants up his disrespectful nose.
In the meantime, what was the reaction in the United States to Howard's remarks? President Bush said nothing, or if he did, nobody heard him because hardly anyone pays him any attention anymore.
Members of Congress? Zilch. They are too busy trying to blame each other for the problems they have caused the rest of us. No threats from the National Basketball Association that if one more of their zillionaires disrespects our national anthem the season will be canceled and they will have to find a real job along with the sports writers.
Unfortunately, many Americans approve of disrespecting our country's national symbols because that somehow justifies in their minds our freedom of expression. To them being unpatriotic is, well, patriotic.
The French, on the other hand, have said if you don't love France, we will give you a ferry schedule and you can be out of the country before the sun sets. And au revoir.
I'm going to get President Sarkozy and his ministers to Georgia one Friday night to a high school football game and let them watch a bunch of ungrateful jerks walking around with their hats on ignoring "The Star-Spangled Banner." I guarantee the butt-kicking that follows will be better than the game.
Vive la France! My new best friends.
Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose column appears Saturdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can reach him at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; Web site.