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Saturday, November 27, 2004

French Bashing- A View from Maine - A Topsham Maine Journal

I was absolutely appalled and, frankly, a little frightened tonight while watching the popular CNN-TV talk-panel news show called "The Capital Gang".

Although the panel of four news pundits regulars, i.e., Al Hunt, Kate O'Beirne, Margaret Carlson and Robert Novak are usually glimmers of intellect in our otherwise pop-news programming, tonights French bashing was disappointing, out of character and downright mean-spirited, in my opinion. In fact, this is the e-mail message I sent to the program on the CNN.com webpage, just before I sat down to write this Topsham Maine Journal:

"A very low blow tonight Saturday November 27, in the group gang-bashing the French. Your ratings must have dropped after the election, not surprising with conservative Robert Novak always sputtering away with the same-old-same-old. I almost thought Robert Novak might have redeemed his unreasonable conservative opinions tonight when the report began with him walking on the left bank in Paris. I had hope, but after a warm lead in, listeners were led, instead, down the bank of nasty French bashing with Kate O'Beirne lapping at Novak's heels like a hungry puppy. Sad. Let the French in France bash whoever they want, they always have - it's their nature. Don't sink into such shenanigans, please. We have enough scare news going on in Washington DC as it is. We don't need the French to create more fear. It's beneath all of you, even the mean spirited Robert Novak."

I sent that message, but I sure don't expect a response. Who reads all those e-mails, anyway?

I've been to France, many French speaking people are friends of mine. Moreover, my husband is 100 percent Franco-American of pure French descent and, therefore, my two sons are fifty-percent Franco-American. Our family proudly shares my husband's family's French name. Naturally, I don't take kindly to French bashing, or any other kind of ethnic bashing, for that matter - even Muslim bashing. But, when it comes to the French these days, it's like there's a newly declared open hunting season, "Let's see how many ways we can bash the French".

Americans these days are timid about bashing Muslim's, probably for fear of retaliation. It's not politically correct to bash Muslims, even though every one of the hijackers in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were Muslims who happened to also be terrorists. Perhaps it's just easier to bash the French because they are more like us than Muslims are. It's like picking on your little sister or brother. Furthermore, maybe the French are easy targets who sort of deserve bashing for not supporting the US led War in Iraq and for not liking our American President George W. Bush.

Apart from being downright impolite to bash the French, it's also shabby journalism. If those highly paid television pundits can't create a good story for television news watchers and listeners, then they should return to journalism shcool! If I were doing a story about how much the French dislike Americans, then I would do a "man on the street" interview, with english subtitles for the French speaking people being interviewed. What a disappointment to see Robert Novak buying postcards in Paris while reporting on a voice overlay about how much the French say they like Americans but dislike President George W. Bush. Who's going to believe the ultra conservative journalist Robert Novak? Listening to his rendition of French public opinion is like asking the Roman Catholic Pope to speak about moral values in the religious clergy. There's an obvious credibility problem with both scenarios.

I recently saw the movie "Bowling for Columbine", directed by the now well known and very controversial Michael Moore. It was a very disturbing story because Moore points out over and over again how the US news media creates fear in the American public through negative news coverage and by playing into racial stereotypes.

That's why The Capital Gang engaging in French bashing is all the more serious. It doesn't take a big leap of judgement for a mentally sick person to come to the conclusion that French people need to pay for their dislike of Americans. A very scary thought.

My prayer is for people to listen with a sympathetic ear to the terror in the world, to pay attention to the genocide, the religious wars, the political turmoil and the hungry children with incurable diseases. Hey, we Americans need to be leaders in this world, not fear mongers.

Let's stop French bashing. And, of coure, visa-versa. The French might need to love us more than we deserve, but Americans should take the high road.

Sadly, we sort of lost our way by taking a road to the political right in the last Presidential election of 2004, electing President George W. Bush instead of Senator John Kerry for US president.

Still, nothing will be solved and the human condition will not improve if ethnic bashing is allowed to continue on The Capital Gang.



Friday, November 19, 2004

We Are Living in Sad Times: A Topsham Maine Journal

There were tears in the eyes of televions news anchor Tom Brokow as he described a sad story on tonight's NBC television nightlly news about a young Marine from the US state of Nebraska, who was recently killed in fighting in Falluja, Iraq. Lots of innocent people are being killed in the Iraq War, but tonight's story was particularly stirring because the Marine killed in recent street fighting was apparently stricken in an ambush at about the same time his young wife and high school sweet heart was giving birth to their first born son, back home in Nebraska. To coin the Charles Dickens cliche, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". Iindeed, it was a time of horror amidst joy for the families affected by the death of the Marine from Nebraska. His wife is in anguish. His newborn son will never know his father. Parents of the Marine killed wish their son were alive, rather than hailed as a "war hero". Grandparents of the new baby are distressed and confused about the future. This cluster of sadness joins with other sad stories. It seems like endless sad news. Yes, we're living in very sad times. Americans frequently complain about a lack of good news stories, "Too much violence in the news", they say. As a sometimes reporter, I say we can't invent the news. We just report the news. If the news is sad, it's because we're living in sad times. Even the American family holiday of Thanksgiving, just around the corner, doesn't seem to help. We're still living in sad times. All the bright yellow ribbons of remembrance in the universe of ribbons cannot make it better. So, what can help to make it better? Well, it's not a cure, but Americans must wake up and realize how much we have lost to this War on Iraq. We have not gained one inch of freedom for the people of Iraq in this war. In fact, I'd bet most people in Iraq feel they have less freedom now then they ever lost with the dictator Saddam Hussein. Moreover, our US elite spy agencies are too busy fighting between themselves to find out more information about how long the real terrorist Osama Bin Ladin will outwit our government. We need to put resources and energy into rooting Bin Ladin out of the caves of Afganastan or Pakistan, or wherever he and his evil kind are hiding. In another report on the NBC nightly television news with Tom Brokow, one journalist reported , "The US Government now realizes there may never be an Iraq without terrorism." Yes, that's right. There may never be peace or freedom for the people in Iraq. But, Americans voted for President George W. Bush because they believed he would bring freedom to Iraq and kill all the terrorists. Dear God, we need to pray for intelligent American voters. Many Americans are loosing their freedom of thought due to expensive mind games played on all of us in thousands of paid political advertisements slammed all over the media to make us believe Senator John Kerry was not fit to lead our nation. We picked somebody else to do the job. Those seductive political advertisements were a waste of a lot of money, except, they worked for the Republicans and badly hurt the Democrats. Yes, in Tospsham, Maine, these are sad times. Hundreds of yellow ribbons are fading and wilting on local lamposts, tired of waiting for the return of our soilders. What can we do? Pray for peace. Pray for enlightenment for zealous people who blindly believe the War on Terror should be waged in Iraq rather than in Afganastan, where Osama Bin Ladin is hiding from us. Topsham, Maine is a rural place with lots of trees and pristeen countryside. It's a place of peace, even in the saddest of times. I'm happy to be here and I pray for those so much less fortuante. I pray for peace and better times.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Voting at the Topsham Fair Grounds: A Topsham, Maine Journal

Election 2004 is finally over, but the unsettling result for about 48 plus percent of those Americans who voted on November 2nd just leaves us depressed and confused about how the outcome could have possibly happened the way it did? Why did President George W. Bush win this election when Senator John Kerry had all the right issues, he's an eloquent spokesperson, he told the truth and was a formidable candidate in what could have been a complete wipe out for the Democrats (and nearly was!). In so far as I'm not a political pundit, even though I sometimes think I'd like to be, it's really not up to me to revise what's already history. People around the world see our United States of America in big color maps of "red" and "blue" states, indicating a stereotypical picture of what we leaders of Democracy around the world must be like, or not like. We all know, it's not as simple as colored pictures on a national map. Nevertheless, voting for the candidate who lost the election is somewhat mitigated or lightened by the manner in which I voted for the Presidential candidate this year. My husband and I were impressed by the way the Town of Topsham, Maine conducted voting. In spite of what happened in Florida in 2000, Topsham, Maine has "the right voting stuff".

In the past, we've voted in lots of places in the many years while Dick was in the US Navy. Even in Maine, we've voted in schools, libraries, town halls and even vacant buildings. Therefore, it was a refreshing experience and even a joy to participate in this truly democratic process in Topsham, Maine where we voted in a huge barn along with everybody else in town. As I learned just this year, voting in Topsham is all done at the site where the farm exhibits are held annually at the Topsham Maine Fair Grounds. "Yessir!", or "Aaaayaaaa" (two ways of saying "yes" in Maine), everybody in Topsham, Maine votes in one big barn. If long lines form, somebody with good old fashioned Yankee Common Sense simply opens up another line. Voting aides are ready to find your name in highly visible locations with big letters above their desks: "If your last name begins A-D - check in here"; or "If your last name begins E-I - check in here". How imminently civilized. A value added in this rural vote in one place method is the way you get to see who all your neighbors are. Moreover, for those who believe Americans are great at talking the talk about voting but slow to deliver on user friendly voting methodology, then may I suggest you try observing an election day in Topsham, Maine.? Dick and I took about 15 minutes to vote, astounding if you could have seen the lines of hundreds of people who showed up at 8 AM at the Topsham Fair Grounds. Thankfully, efficient and effective voting is alive and well in Topsham, Maine. Although the election of 2004 leaves many of us disullusioned about the nature of our American citizens, people who obviously voted out of raw emotion against terrorism or because they simply didn't like the idea of a Massachusettes liberal and prefered a Texas cowboy instead....what a way to select a world leader.....what can I say? I think I undestand what happened in the election of 2004, but then, I'm not sure. Sometimes I still wake up at night and believe what happened didn't really happen at all. But, then I remember voting in the barn at the Topsham Maine Fair Grounds, and think, "Yes", we did have a Presidential Election and Senator John Kerry lost the election. But, Senator John Kerry didn't loose the election in the US state of Maine, where we voted for him and also elected two Democratic Congressmen as well, plus- our vote joined all the six New England States in affirming a Democratic presidential vote. In my opinion, voting in Topsham, Maine made an otherwise deplorable election outcome somewhat memorable.