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french connection After reading Paul Berman’s fine article about French anti-Americanism, one has to wonder: Is this serious, and does it matter (“The Anti-Anti-Americans,” November 28- December 5, 2005)? For comparison’s sake, there is also a long history of anti-French sentiment in the United States. Denunciations of the French as snobbish, arrogant, conceited, ineffectual, oversexed, heartless, cheese-eating surrender monkeys have been a part of American folk consciousness almost from the foundation of the republic. Listen to any right-leaning opinion broadcast (John Gibson’s “The Big Story” on Fox comes to mind), and one could reasonably conclude that French anti-Americanism has more than met its match.But so what? It is doubtful that these attitudes are more than skin deep. Was one Airbus contract canceled by an U.S. company because of anti-French prejudice? Did any American try to stir up the French rioters? Has anyone seriously suggested sanctions against France, or blockage of foreign exchanges, or cancelation of Fulbright scholarships to the Sorbonne? Would Gibson himself pass up a free trip to Paris? I doubt it. And I doubt if any of the bombastic French anti-Americanism amounts to much more than that. Compare this with the rhetoric of real enemies (North Korea, Osama bin Laden, Fidel Castro). One has to wonder if worries about French anti-Americanism are a waste of time. john mack New London, Minnesota Berman is right to hail the emergence of anti-anti-American literature in France, but there are other more potentially profound shifts in the French intellectual climate. In the past few decades, French political philosophy-- which was, for so long, dogmatically hostile to Anglo-American liberalism-- began to shed its historicist inheritance of Hegelianism, Marxism, and structuralism. Some of the current generation of political philosophers--Pierre Manent, Marcel Gauchet, Louis Dumont, and others--have signaled a new appreciation for liberalism and take its arguments very seriously. Liberal thinkers of this strain are still endangered in French universities, but they do at least exist now. This refreshing development, along with Nicolas Sarkozy’s popularity with French business, could turn out to be another force impelling France in a less anti-American direction. thomas meaney The New York Society Library New York, New York distance vision David A. Bell quite rightly points out that France has a much deeper experience of immigration and ethno-religious diversity than the mainstream press has reported in the wake of the recent crisis (“The Shorn Identity,” November 28-December 5, 2005). The protests stem at least in part from the integration of suburban communities into the nation and its values--above all, demands for equal opportunity and a decent standard of living for citizens regardless of ancestry--and not simply from the familiar urban blight, decay, and disintegration. While Bell may be correct that the Chirac administration’s inept response to these historic events will, in the long run, drive a generation of disaffected French youth into the arms of Islamic agitators, that possibility seems remote; by all accounts, the Islamic neighborhoods remain quiet. There is, moreover, an immediate concern that he overlooks: the opportunity provided to a National Front in disarray to reestablish itself as a potent menace to the republic and all it stands for. clifford rosenberg Assistant Professor The City College of New York New York, New York Bell’s interesting analysis of the recent rioting in France by the sons of Arab and African immigrants is deeply French--that is, it does not look beyond the borders of Gaul for the source of the problem. But the problem certainly has global ramifications. Many, or even most, of these young men see themselves as superfluous persons, and they are not entirely wrong in this grim perception. Neither France nor any other developed country has need of a large body of unskilled workers. In some parts of the world, they might find work making cheap sneakers or t-shirts for a few dollars a day; in Europe, this is no longer possible. As immigrants have made their way to Europe in search of work, the jobs they might once have held are flowing to the onceimpoverished nations that are now building prosperity on the backs of a huge, poorly paid work force. In Europe (France included), only those who secure an adequate education stand even a remote chance of becoming part of the commonwealth. And, as long as unemployment rates in Europe continue at current levels, it will be a rare employer who does not prefer a worker who speaks the language of the country fluently and has a familiar name and a friendly face. michael jorrin Ridgefield, Connecticut past as present Michael Crowley’s article on Russ Feingold’s challenge to Hillary Clinton brought to mind an eerily similar historical parallel (“Withdrawal Symptoms,” November 21, 2005). Consider the scenario Crowley describes: a little-known, Democratic, Midwestern United States senator--frequently lauded for his intelligence, integrity, and independence--comes out against a war that is still supported, to one degree or another, by the overwhelming majority of those in Congress. That opposition becomes the germ of a presidential campaign. His biggest obstacle to the nomination, however, is the expected candidacy of the “carpetbagging” junior senator from New York, who is a major celebrity and a very close relative of a recent Democratic president (who remains very popular with the party faithful). The New York senator, while considered a liberal, has nonetheless staked out a centrist--and sometimes hawkish--position on the war. It’s not just Feingold and Clinton: This also tells the story of Eugene McCarthy’s primary race against Robert Kennedy in 1968. I suspect that the scenario will play out this time just as it did before. Once Clinton, like Kennedy, calculates that she has more to gain politically by opposing the war, she will demand an end to U.S. involvement, rendering Feingold’s one-note campaign (like McCarthy’s) superfluous and doomed. steven p. caley Rye Brook, New York Crowley notes that Internet fund-raising has saved Democrats from the worst effects of McCainFeingold so far. This is certainly true on the national level, but it is not at all true at the local level. Localities like New York, where I live now, are able to scrape by with high-profile fund-raisers and donors, but local Democratic parties in places like my former home of Fort Worth, Texas, have been completely unable to keep pace. Big Labor made Tarrant County, Texas, a Democratic stronghold until the Reagan era, and it kept Democratic politics alive even into the early governorship of George W. Bush. Now the Democrats struggle to keep a local office open, because all of the wealthy donors are Republicans. Lower-income and middle-class union members--such as teachers and the blue-collar employees of Lockheed Martin--have been robbed of a voice in local politics. Consequently, Tarrant County has become one of the reddest counties of over one million residents in the country. The local Republican headquarters is well-funded, despite leadership that hails from the far right, but the local Democratic headquarters is practically destitute. Ask anyone at a meeting of Democratic activists why this has happened, and the answer is the same: “McCain-Feingold has ruined us.” stephen cox New York, New York While those of us who regard Iraq as an unmitigated disaster may find Feingold interesting, we could also support a candidate who voted for the war if he or she were to admit to being misled by the intelligence available at the time and would profess regret at the terrible damage done to the interests of the United States. One of Bush’s more irritating qualities is his inability to acknowledge mistakes and misjudgments; we should not select a Democrat with the same character flaw. william w. hussey New York, New York party foul Iapplaud Garance Franke-Ruta’s call for liberals to confront abortion not only as a political and philosophical issue, but also as a “public health issue” bound up with histories of sexual abuse and economic and social inequality (“Multiple Choice,” November 28- December 5, 2005). But absolutely nothing in what Franke-Ruta says would “mean accepting that there’s some credibility to conservative views on abortion.” Indeed, she suggests that abortion be considered in a structural, rather than a moral, context-- something that conservatives have never been willing to do (and something that, though that structure was patriarchy, early feminist abortion advocates did do). The implication is that we need less poverty, less social and racial stratification, and more publicly funded support for low-income women and their families. Far from forcing liberals to realize that “there’s some credibility to conservative views on abortion,” this argument reinforces core liberal beliefs: that government should work to meliorate poverty, reduce inequality, and provide holistic support for healthy families; and that poverty creates problems rather than simply reflects individual flaws. Conservatives, who wish to gut social programs and cut taxes, do nothing to place the reality of abortion--first, second, or third time around--in a larger social context. Rather, they resolutely reduce the discussion of abortion to a moral contest between innocent fetuses and immoral women. This doesn’t help. susan pearson Assistant Professor of History Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois Franke-Ruta points out that, to women’s detriment, pro-choice liberals tend to ignore certain demographic facts about abortion in the United States. Another set of facts they ignore or deny is the mounting medical and psychological evidence that legal abortion harms women. Abortion has been linked to increased incidences of suicide, depression, substance abuse, breast cancer, ectopic pregnancies, and prematurity in later pregnancies, resulting in more problems for children carried to term. Despite particular studies that appear to me to be designed to cast doubt on some of these findings, the evidence continues to mount. raymond j. adamek Emeritus Professor of Sociology Kent State University Kent, Ohio home off-base In the Notebook section, the editors write that President Moshe Katzav and General Shaul Mofaz come from “sephardi” origins (Notebook, December 12, 2005). Properly speaking, Iranian Jews do not trace their lineage back to Spain, as do some Jews in Arab countries. Rather, they point to a continuous lineage of Jews in Persia, now Iran, since the age following the destruction of the first Temple and the permission given by Cyrus for Jews to return (538 BCE). Although the two communities may overlap ideologically and even in certain customs, Katzav and Mofaz are not Sephardic Jews, but Persian Jews. rabbi david wolpe Sinai Temple Los Angeles, California