Sunday, May 22, 2011

Freedom fries 2.0

I like the French. Their love of food, wine and life coupled with their disdain for dumb Americans, bad fashion and British food makes me smile.
However, their apparent take on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case irks me.
Although I prefer sexual openness to the closed-off taboo American way, there's a difference between being open and getting away with rape and assault.
IMF head, Strauss-Kahn is no stranger to the sexual assault accusation. He's had several in the past: one from the French journalist Tristane Banon who said that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a 2002 interview. He apparently attacked her like a "rutting chimpanzee," ripping her clothes as she kicked and punched him. He was also investigated in 2008 for pressuring a young woman in his employ to have sex with him. Apparently, even his own free-thinking countrymen had issued a warning to Strauss-Kahn about keeping his pants on and not getting into "elevators alone with women."
So, in all respects the rain and wind was indicative of the coming hurricane - can't say it snuck up on him.
Yet at the first cry of wolf, the French media claimed that Strauss-Kahn was being framed, more than likely by Sarkozy and friends, eager to have him off the upcoming ballot.
When that story fizzled and lost lustre, they turned their venom loose on the treatment of Strauss-Kahn ; the fact that he was being paraded in front of cameras in handcuffs, not wearing a tie...yes, I agree - the lack of a tie totally makes the difference between sophisticated Don Juan and creepy rapist.
In France, it is illegal to take pictures of a suspect in handcuffs, in the interest of allowing public opinion to stay neutral, not swayed by images seemingly declaring guilt. However, it is apparently not illegal to be a well known sexual chauvinist. As Olivier Picard commented in the Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace, "For years, politicians and many journalists were well aware of DKS's (their pet name for him) 'little weakness.' But in the name of respect for personal privacy, we ignored it and took the risk that there would one day be a disaster." Well Olivier, here it is.
Personally, I don't give a rat's ass if they show the pictures or not, it is immaterial. The issue at hand is his alleged inability to keep his dick to himself and not force it on unwilling victims. And the fact that the French continue to ignore that central subject in favor of handcuffs, a 5 o'clock shadow and the lack of a tie doesn't gives the impression that they, as a people, are not willing to accept these charges as legitimate.
Here's the thing - we may make fun of the French for using infidelity as often as garlic sauce, but this isn't about infidelity, this is about rape. And I have absolutely no problem with their unwillingness to turn into the British media, where celebrities can't even have a big lunch for fear of being called pregnant. But again, this has nothing to do with invasion of privacy. What about the invasion of dignity and body?
French journalists complain that this trial will only lead to more French bashing - a "Freedom fries 2.0" if you will. I disagree. Sure, the dumb shits with about as much education and class as the ones who chanted it in the firs place - they'll definitely jump on the bandwagon again. But for the others, or at least speaking for myself, I didn't even think of blaming France until they shone the spotlight on themselves. I felt it was unacceptable for his previous trespasses to be ignored, but hell, that's not a problem particular to France. If I had a dime for every time I'd heard about US politicians sexually harassing their employees or female acquaintances, (or hey, how about all those children!) I could probably solve this economic crisis single handedly.
France is effectively standing in a waterfall of their own making complaining of being drenched. For example, Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said, "There are two victims here. One is alleged: the maid in New York. The other is proven: That is France."
You're literally comparing a few dumb redneck remarks to a woman being forced to oral sex and rape...mais non...
Philippe Boulet-Gercourt wrote in Le Nouvel Observateur, "America has not the slightest atom of sympathy for DSK. To them, he is a Frog suspected of trying to evade American justice by jumping on the first Air France flight out. If he's guilty, DSK will surely get a severe sentence. And even if instead he was the victim of conspiracy, as many French people believe, the Americans will still despise him, because their strong puritanical streak condemns all extramarital relations. In the coming days, we can expect a torrent of headlines and good old cliches about the cowardly and depraved French."
OK, I very, VERY rarely puff up my chest in defense of the US, but come on!
Extramarital affairs?!
Since when was rape classified as an extramarital affair? And are we supposed to have sympathy for a man accused of rape? I don't even have sympathy for most humans, not convicted of anything! And if you suspect conspiracy, show some evidence. When Julian Assange was convicted of rape, Swedish newspapers and media overflowed with evidence as to how that wasn't possible...the SWEDISH media - the ones supposedly accusing him.
If you're gonna throw stones, make sure you're not standing in a glass house.
The US has nothing to gain from fucking with the IMF - in reality, the IMF is a big asset to our crusade-like escapades overseas. If he was the head of an abortion clinic or free condom factory, I could give some slack, but the IMF has enough blood on their hands to be admitted into our club.
For shits and giggles, let's say he was set up. Was he set up on the other ones too? Did his own countrymen issue warnings as part of a master plan to get rid of him?
I don't doubt our ability to fabricate stories. And if this whole string of events is true, I am greatly surprised at the functionality of justice for one maid against the likes of DSK - very shocked.
But it just doesn't seem to me, with all the evidence, that this guy is some misunderstood beacon of French society.
And if he is, I think a more condemning approach to his actions, past and current would keep the angry rednecks they're so afraid of at bay better than defending the honor of a frequently accused sexual assailant.
Protecting a culture is one thing - protecting a criminal is another. Don't give Americans any more fuel for their nationalistic, Franco-phobic fire. Infidelity is not rape. A sexually open culture does not issue a warrant of touch-me, feel-me access to those who embrace it. A sexually closed culture can not be blamed for the accusations of an alleged rape victim. Think before you write, before you speak, before you blindly defend. And maybe some of us will do the same.

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