Terror and the French

So, some French felt shortchanged by a short Madonna concert in Paris the other day…wow…now the world’s worst tippers know what it feels like. Touché.

In any event, those news reports got it wrong, so let’s get it right: whore in French is not salope, it’s putain or more familiarly, pute. Salope, the epithet which some French concert-goers apparently hurled at Madonna  for allegedly cutting her concert short at the legendary Olympia concert hall in Paris, is French for bitch.

It is one of the greatest contradictions in the known universe that the nation that likes to call itself the world’s most civilized is secretly the most savage. That the French would dare to insult one of the finest, if not the finest female American pop entertainer of all time, is pretty depressing but then, is there any people more given over to pouting when they don’t get exactly want than the French? To put it where it’s at, there’s no way to say sababa in French.

The French should be grateful that Madonna deigned to breathe the air in their morally deficient land. Ooh la la! So the biggest proudest bitch in music called it quits after one set:  when you’re a diva, that’s a right you’ve earned. What the incident betrays however is the secret and scarily juvenile aspect of the French nature. Nowhere was this more clear than with the French Revolution, which among other things represents the birth of modern terrorism.

In 1789 life in France probably wasn’t all that bad – that, however, didn’t stop bands of extremists from calling a weak monarchy’s bluff and proceeding to send its member, one by one, to the guillotine. I have stood inside a forgotten church on the edge of Paris, conveniently not mentioned in any guidebook, where a big plain plaque lists the names of not only the aristocrats but also the schoolteachers, the bakers and the postal workers who weren’t deemed revolutionary enough and were sent, one by one, to the guillotine. Outside the church, there is a huge pit, now covered, into which the bodies were thrown, sans funerals. It is one of the ugliest spots in the whole of Europe.

The leader of the French revolutionary pack, the architect of its terror machine, was Maximilien de Robespierre, a man so utterly convinced of his absolute rightness, and righteousness, and so completely delusional, that he did away not only with the church but with the very idea of God: instead there was a Supreme Being, and he created a wacky festival to celebrate it. That’s when Robespierre’s flimsy legitimacy started to crumble. What gave him power was the almost singular French propensity for hysteria, what took it away was the delayed realization that he was a nutjob.

No revolution, however lofty its ideals, that is lubricated by the senseless murder of a nation’s own can ever enjoy complete legitimacy. It’s one reason why the American Revolution was vastly superior to the French Revolution. You can draw a long line from the excesses of the French Revolution to the tragic picture of French leadership kneeling before a smug Adolph Hitler.

One of the lingering toxins of the French Revolution is the precedent it set for allowing, indeed encouraging acts of terror to be committed in the name of questionable ideals and shady men who probably have bigtime unresolved psycho-sexual issues. The puerile and defeatist Gallic pack mentality that gave rise to Robespierre (and his demise) is the same as the one that led to insults shouted at the preeminent pop songstress of all known space and time and is the same as the one that destroyed Nicholas Sarkozy’s political career in one electoral chomp and is the same that, in historical if not physically demonstrable terms, fuels the faux moral fire of extremist “political” groups around the world, including Hamas and Hezbollah (and maybe Celine Dion fans, but that’s another story).

And what is Hassan Nasrallah if not a modern-day incarnation of Robespierre? Omniscient to his own mind, ineluctably stuck on the wrong side of the fence but convinced he’s got it right, a supremely dark force of abject hatred and a truth-allergic figure nevertheless endowed with sizzling power by all those he’s so deftly hoodwinked. Who knows – had the French Revolution proceeded on a sounder moral footing, there would at the very least be a slower path to perceived legitimacy for many extremist groups. And yeah, a stronger France with more solid, less inchoate socio-political foundations might have fended off Nazi Germany.

And a stronger France might be able to lead the way in a woefully overdue initiative for the complete demilitarization of Lebanon, the country it more or less created. But it won’t happen – because France has been a country of innate anti-Semitism since the days of Charlemagne if not before, because France is a nation where people shout and pout when a singer of stature displeases them, and because of a historical dossier largely of its own making, that has made France a has-been, a lightweight with next to no finesse on the world stage, and an unfailing whiner in the family of modern nations.

And Madonna, come back to Israel – come sing with friends.