Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paranoia, and Freedom Fries

I posted last week about my own family story of Armistice Day (now Veteran's Day), here.  In that post I talked about how my great-grandfather was killed on the Western Front after the armistice was signed at 11:00 am on 11 Nov 1918.

That post got me thinking some more about group think and what seems all too common these days, checking one's brain at the door in lieu of rational thought.  A prime example would be what I posted about here, how all 37 Republican candidates for the U.S. senate disagree with the notion of man-made climate change.

So back to World War I.  Recall that at that time, anti-German sentiment resulted in the renaming of certain German foods. Sauerkraut was renamed "liberty cabbage", dachshunds renamed "liberty pups", and hamburgers renamed "liberty steaks" or "Salisbury steaks" (a name that remains in use...thanks to Wikipedia).

Well, anybody else remember the stupid episode in our recent history when the French, in a prescient move, refused in 2003 to endorse of support our move to invade Iraq?  Again, via Wikipedia:

On March 11, 2003, Representatives Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-North Carolina) declared that all references to French fries and French toast on the menus of the restaurants and snack bars run by the House of Representatives would be removed. House cafeterias were ordered to rename French fries to "freedom fries". This action was carried out without a congressional vote, under the authority of Ney's position as Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, which oversees restaurant operations for the chamber. The simultaneous renaming of French toast to "freedom toast" attracted less attention.

According to a statement released by Ney, this move was intended to express displeasure with France's "continued refusal to stand with their U.S. allies" (see Iraq disarmament crisis). The statement further read: "This action today is a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure many on Capitol Hill have with our so-called ally, France."

Well, whatever happened to Freedom Fries?  Bob Ney wound up resigning in disgrace in 2006, and--to his credit--in May 2005, Walter Jones (who remains in the House of Representatives today) became enlightened:

Representative Jones, having arrived at the belief that the United States went to war "with no justification", said of the "freedom fries" episode: "I wish it had never happened." By July 2006, the House had changed the name of the two foods in all of its restaurants back to "French fries" and "French toast".

Paranoia always seems to result in extremism, doesn't it?

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