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The American Caliban

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Two Minutes Hate [Feb. 9th, 2003|11:46 pm]
The American Caliban
[Current Mood |frustrated]

Our society officially shuns hate. We react to "hate" crimes with public vigor. Our pop culture leaders enjoin us "don't hate!" and ask us not to be "haters". Even people whom we are trying to incinerate and pulverize are told that we don't despise them, and that we're sorry their leaders put them in the way of our armies.

But you've got to have someone to hate! Official culture is no longer allowed to hate the old standard minority groups, so despising black people or Mexican people or even the Irish or the Italians is right out. So, for those of you confused about what to do with all your blind rage, I present:


The easiest target used to be "Arabs", which for Americans includes actual Arabs, Iranians, the entire Indian subcontinent, southern Asians from the "stans", and Turks. Mass media voices like Saturday Night Live and morning DJs were allowed to treat anyone with a turban or an "Arab" sounding accent as a character in a racist playlet. However, now that we're engaged in an actual racist war against these people we are no longer allowed to hate them, only to blow them up. The official voice must be honeyed with love. Sorry.

The next group we've been allowed to hate is "Asians", by which we in the U.S. mean East Asians. They're great for this purpose, because everyone remembers from third grade how to make fun of them. I particularly remember a Saturday Night Live sketch in the late 80s or early 90s in which a comically stupid "Chinese" guy had a store but wouldn't sell his chicken because he loved it. Lots of wacky, zany ching-chong-chinaman antics. People who won't use the "N" word or rage about Mexican immigrants will happy trade "bad Asian driver" stories at dinner parties or do "hilarious" imitations of the stereotypical Korean grocery owner. The field is wide open here, folks, so enjoy it until we're at war with North Korea and we have to love them as we bomb.

The perennial hate target, surprisingly enough, is the French. The phrase "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", originally from The Simpsons, has been popularized by a columnist at the National Review (a key publication for hatred fans), as he pounds away at our friends across the Atlantic. Hatred of the French comes up often in conversations: friends of mine across the political spectrum from right to left joyfully cut loose on them for losing to Hitler, smelling bad, being arrogant, not supporting our wars, and liking Jerry Lewis. For some reason, in America, you can't lose by shitting on the French. If you're having a down day, got fired at the Wal-Mart, maybe the '83 Granada won't start, take it out on the French. Have yourselves a good old Two Minutes Hate. And do it now while you can; we may start blowing them up soon and need to start loving them again.
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Comments:
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: substitute
2003-02-10 12:08 am (UTC)

Re: Hating the French?

Well at least you guys had 1,000 years of actual WARS with them. It makes a bit more sense there.
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From: uninvention
2003-02-10 03:25 am (UTC)
i thought all of america got together and decided to only hate white trash?

the latest onion had some nice stuff regarding france, germany.
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[User Picture]From: flipzagging
2003-02-10 05:09 am (UTC)
yeah. I'm not a usaian, but I hadn't noticed that asians or even arabs were being exposed to mindless hate nowadays.

In fact I would argue that arabs are more stereotyped by the anti-war forces than the pro-war forces. The "no blood for oil" contingent often says that any military action, even a justified one, backed by the UN, against Afghanistan or Iraq, will inevitably create al-Qaeda sympathy. And that no democratic government is possible in Iraq anyway, it must all end in bloodshed. Translation: all Arabs are unreasoning, quarrelling, ignorant, suicidal hotheads, who live only to execute the enemies of the faith on the point of a scimitar.

"White Trash" has always struck me as a disgusting term that is strangely mainstream.

France, for English-speaking North Americans, is like the girl sitting by herself in the corner of the cafeteria who reads a lot. They can't understand why she doesn't like what they like, so there's unthinking hostility to that stuck-up bitch. (The French Canadians hate the French too, but it's a fact-based hate.)
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[User Picture]From: feedle
2003-02-10 07:14 am (UTC)

French Canadians...

Does anybody like French-Canadians? Even Canadians don't like French-Canadians. Don't get people I know in Saskatchewan started on French-Canadians. I was told (and it's probably urban legend) that Saskatoon even once had a city ordinance prohibiting the speaking of French in public.

Of course, the French-Canadians seem to hate everybody. America (not just the US, but the collective governments of the continent), France, Ontario (both the .ca province and the California city), the Red Green Show, cheddar cheese, and perhaps even themselves. *shrug* What you gonna do?

I like French-Canadians. Well, actually, the only French-Canadian I've actually ever met is a Vietnamese lady who emigrated to "French-Canada" in the 1960's, and now runs a French-Canadian restaurant in Anaheim, California. French-Canadian food: all the finery of eating in France, with all the excess North America can offer.
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[User Picture]From: mendel
2003-02-10 08:07 am (UTC)

Re: French Canadians...

But the rest of Canada doesn't really acknowledge Saskatchewan's existence. :-)

Lots of conservative Canadian cities adopted unilingual-English policies in the period leading up to Quebec's secession referendum; they didn't actually mean anything to citizens of those municipalities other than making a statement of political affinity and preventing municipal civil servants from having to speak French to Francophones. Of course, any city that could pass a policy like that wouldn't have a Francophone minority in the first place, and probably wouldn't have any civil servants on the front lines that could speak French if they wereallowed.

There's a big difference between English Canada being angry at French-Canadian politicians and English Canadians hating French Canadians. I'm essentially unilingual Anglophone, and lived in Montreal for seven years -- I could read the signs, but I'd have to use English in conversations if I wanted to get anything done -- and I couldn't detect any animosity amongst the people I had contact with (service staff, professionals, academics, and young artists, musicians, etc.)

Once you get into rural Quebec things change, but it's not really French Canadians hating English Canadians, it's more of just a general disregard for the other. In Reflections of a Siamese Twin -- which answers your question a lot better than I can, and which I'd heartily recommend -- John Ralston Saul recounts a story about an American reporter who, after the referendum, spoke with Lucien Bouchard's mother, who lives in a small Quebec town whose name escapes me. The reporter asked her what she thought about English Canadians, and her response, paraphrased, was that for foreigners they seemed like nice people. I think that captures the feeling of English and French Canadians for each other when they don't come into contact with each other regularly, although Quebecois rhetoric is a bit stronger than that of an English Canadian.

(And hating Ontario is a national pastime in Canada. If you're already in Ontario, you hate Toronto instead. But it's never particularly serious. Beyond resentment at federal distribution of funds and power -- and note that that's more about hating Ottawa than Ontario -- it's mostly a running gag.)

So it's not really the case that people don't like French Canadians; English Canada hate Quebecois separatist politics (and there are good reasons for them to do so), Quebecois separatists hate English Canadian politics (and there are good reasons for them to do so), but English and French Canadians get along fine when in regular contact with each other, and curiously but not quite hatefully when they don't.
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[User Picture]From: i_get_stabby
2003-02-10 08:58 am (UTC)

Re: French Canadians...

I dunno, talk to someone in Halifax or PEI and you'll get an earful about how much they hate French-Canadians.

And, just to let you know, we Torontonians hate the rest of you for being so damned whiny about us ;P
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[User Picture]From: mendel
2003-02-10 09:08 am (UTC)

Re: French Canadians...

Well, hrm. I was in Montreal during the last referendum, and I've got friends strategically located across Canada (and was attending uni with people from across Canada), and I really didn't see what you describe. I heard a lot of discontent with separatists, but not with Jean-Pierre at the office or the pub, if that makes sense. I mean, I'm not talking the discomfort of dealing with people when you have to go through the language-negotiation protocol, I'm talking about the stuff that substitute was talking about in this post, and the stuff that feedle mentioned about municipalities going unilingually English and so forth.

At best, I think I'd describe conservative Nova Scotian and PEI opinions of Quebec as discomfort -- New Brunswick's managed fine, though -- and their opinions of random French-Canadians as unremarkable.

And being in Montreal during the last referendum was essentially a standing invitation for anyone that happened to talk to me to give me their opinion on Quebec.
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[User Picture]From: fimmtiu
2003-02-10 06:25 pm (UTC)

Re: French Canadians...

I dunno what Montreal you were in, mate, but my very first memory of Montreal is of the graffiti on the wall of the bus I took from the airport. It was speckled with competing French-English hate speech scribbles: "FRENCHIES GO HOME", "ANGLOS FUCK OFF", et cetera. I guess that colored my first impression of the city in a fairly negative light. The everyday motions of getting along are, of necessity, largely unaffected, but I got an impression of a lot of deeply-buried animosity -- especially after talking with some Montreal people, and someone I know who moved to Montreal from the States, who all had really fucked-up stories to share. Beautiful town, but... oy vey.
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[User Picture]From: mendel
2003-02-10 07:44 pm (UTC)

Re: French Canadians...

The complex one, I guess, where you can't figure out what's on a people's collective mind by what a few decide to paint on buildings! There was a lot of pro- and anti-French graffiti painted during the Referendum; threatening to tear a country apart (or finally get away from Ottawa, depending on your point of view) gets people riled up.

But it's not the least bit representative. I'm not sure what else to tell you; what everyone's bent on describing here is simply not what it's like.

Just like seeing a swastika scratched on a bathroom wall in Vancouver doesn't mean Vancouverites hate Jews, seeing anti-French or anti-English graffiti from the referendum doesn't mean Anglophones hate Francophones or vice-versa in Quebec, let alone across Canada.

There's deeply-based politics in Quebec, obviously, but they don't manifest themselves in day-to-day life and people hating people. It's nationalism, not hatred, and since Laurier with few exceptions (Groulx, Bourassa, Parizeau) it's been heading towards an introspective nationalism more than a defensive one.

But I don't think I'm going to convince anyone in this thread, so this is going to be my last post. But think about it -- what interest do I have in leading you on about it? It's just not like you describe when you live there. It's ridiculous to say, as feedle did, that Canadians don't like French Canadians. English Canada doesn't like French Canadian politicians -- no argument there. But individuals, aside from the marginalia? I don't think it's supportable.

Same thing the other way around. I lived as an Anglophone minority in a French neighbourhood in the most language-divided city in the province, and I've paid more attention to the idea of Francophones hating Anglophones in this thread than I did in seven years and a referendum there.

Political parties aside, the idea that French Canadians hate English Canadians or vice versa is a stereotype. Like any stereotype, there are some people that live it, and there's history to support it -- sentiments were stronger during the Quiet Revolution and around the referenda, plus back when there were wars between the English and French here, but at that point you get waist-deep in colonialism and Protestantism vs. Catholicism -- but when you start looking at details, you find that it's nowhere near as black and white now as it might seem.
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[User Picture]From: feedle
2003-02-11 09:03 am (UTC)

Re: French Canadians...

As a point of order, my assertion was that the Canadians I know hate French-Canadians. Granted, my exposure to Canadians tends to be from the Western provinces (I live in Arizona, and we get a lot of folk down here from Saskatchewan and Alberta who winter down here, plus distant relatives I have in Saskatoon). All usually express some distaste for people who would hang the sign around their neck as "French-Canadian," and proudly announce it as if it actually meant something other than an accident of upbringing.

And I think that's the distinction. They view it as being somewhat divisive: to say "I'm this kind of Canadian as opposed to your kind of Canadian" seems to be the part that peeves them. They respond to that kind of rhetoric the same way many Americans respond to the term "African-American": it should be the "American" part that counts, not the "African" part. I don't think they necessarily have a problem with those who identify with the culture.. it's the ones who feel somehow "more Canadian" because they speak French that is the issue.

Actually, I'm beginning to hate all Canadians. Does the government of Canada intentionally give all the ones who can't drive gas money to come down to Arizona in the winter, so they don't cause traffic accidents up there? :P
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[User Picture]From: fimmtiu
2003-02-11 01:44 pm (UTC)

Re: French Canadians...

It's certainly not a naive black-and-white sort of issue, and your point is well made, but from the Montreal residents I met while I was there, I really got the impression that the neverending political battles at every level -- municipal, city, province, country -- leak over, to some degree, into people's everyday attitudes. Oddly enough, it felt just like home, except with different languages instead of visibly different races.
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[User Picture]From: torgo_x
2003-02-12 06:01 am (UTC)

Lafrons

That France girl in the corner gave me pink-eye.

Also, as to the eternal question of "French" Canadians, "English" Canadians, and the whole rest of Canada, I demand that everyone there in Canada lovingly unite by becoming a Cree-speaking society. Reject the Indo-European hegemony, crush the Roman alphabet, and embrace the Volksfreiheit of CANADIAN SYLLABICS!
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[User Picture]From: i_get_stabby
2003-02-10 07:41 am (UTC)
Fat people.
We can also hate fat people without fear of retrobution.
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: i_get_stabby
2003-02-11 06:50 am (UTC)
Well, technically I'm not teasing. My point was that the overweight in Western society are one of the last groups that it has been deemed socially-acceptable to hate/mock/ridicule. Because of our hevily medicalized, individualistic culture, fat is considered a problem of personal responsibility, unlike race or gender, so it is fair game to harass those who do not help themselves. This thinking, of course, ignores a MANY different social factors and responsibilities of the state, but it is easier this way, ensuring that the population is either extremely ashamed of their physical appearance OR worrying endlessly about maintaining or "improving" the body they have, letting the state maintain the status quo with little rebellion.
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[User Picture]From: nosrialleon
2003-02-10 08:33 am (UTC)

Very Astute!

I think that you are completely correct. The level of anti-French humor has been rising dramatically in the last few months (even before they became a sticking point in the UN); so much so that I've begun to roll my eyes at every joke I hear. It's becoming akin to hackneyed over-used standup comedy bits: "white people are like this; black people are like this", or "boy, how 'bout that airline food!" - "boy, aren't those French smelly, arrogant, cowards!"
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: mendel
2003-02-10 08:54 am (UTC)

Re: Very Astute!

Yeah! They'd surrender right aw... er, nevermind.
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