By late Thursday and early Friday reports were circulating that the Untied Nations was close to developing a cease fire proposal to halt the fighting in Lebanon between Israel and the Hezbollah terrorists.
It was clear almost from the beginning that what would work for the Untied Nations -- anything that wouldn't require real effort or sacrifice from most of the member nations -- wasn't going to work for the combatants. Israel requires, justifiably so, the disarming of Hezbollah, which the UN endorsed years ago in Resolution 1559, and still has done nothing to implement. Obviously, terrorists will talk forever about disarming, but the only reason they do so is to buy time to restock their supply of rockets.
The Israeli ambassador to the UN called the proposal a sign of weakness. He is right.
But not only was the UN proposal distasteful to the combatants it also offended the French, who stated they would not participate in any such nonsense.
But that isn't the real big news on the French front. The big news has to do with what has become an annual Rite d'Ete on the River Seine where it passes through Paris.
For a half-dozen years now the French, who traditionally desert Paris in the summer for the mountains and beaches, have been bringing the beach to Paris for those who can't leave. They create a faux Riviera on the Left and Right banks, replete with sand and all the accoutrements of the Mediterranean and Atlantic shores.
Now, for the typical Frenchman, or devoted tourist, this has been a boon. France, after all is the home of the au naturel beaches, the topless beaches, the bikini! Beach fashion trends have begun in France since ... oh, I don't know, probably since the end of the Spanish Inquisition.
But NOT THIS YEAR.
This year, the French authorities have banned au naturel sunbathing, topless sunbathing, thongs and any other form of skimpy, revealing, sexy, why else do you go to France in the summer, swimwear.
What gives? What on earth would cause the political hierarchy in the country that coined the phrases laissez faire, and menage de trois to suddenly go bashful? Where oh where did the French government get this sudden burst of awareness, this newfound sense of shame and embarrassment over the human form?
On the runways of the annual Paris fashion shows, where cleavage is a requirement, and sheer fabric de rigueur? I think not.
But possibly, just possibly, it could have come from some of those neighborhoods just outside Paris proper where legions of non-native born inhabitants emerged earlier this year to riot and burn with impunity. Is this the official French response to the Muslim influx, carrying with it a propensity in some quarters to violence if demands aren't met and imported customs aren't allowed to supplant those of the host country?
Now, let's not kid ourselves here. Lots of people around the world don't like the French attitudes toward sex and nudity. Lots of people think they are too laid back, pun intended, and wish they would cover up and get some manners. But the upshot of those attitudes has always been that the French can do what they want in France, but not elsewhere in the world.
This is the first time I have heard of since the Nazi occupation, where a facet of France's national identity has been ceded apparently on the sheer threat of further violence from non-native inhabitants.
I don't believe this is the real France. Rather this issue appears to represent the depths to which the French government has sunk, and its complete lack of backbone in the face of criticism or opposition. This is group think at its worst -- changing the national identity on the possibility that someone, somewhere may be offended by something that native Frenchmen see as inoffensive.
Granted, the news didn't come right out and say the French authorities were capitulating to imported Muslim mores and customs. But where else are we to look for an explanation? There has been no outcry from world leaders, religious movements or the even the Untied Nations over French beach wear. In fact, even in a country where Christian cathedrals are as common as vineyards, the French propensity to bare it all on the beaches has pretty much been overlooked, if not outright ogled.
If this is in error I would welcome an explanation by the appropriate authorities as to why something that has been part of the French culture for so long that it probably is genetically ingrained suddenly has been outlawed. If none is forthcoming, we can only wonder ... What is next?
A ban on French wine, French bread, French Fries!!??
Friday, August 04, 2006