March 08, 2006

Honor, French Style

The Saturday, March 4 number of The New York Times reported that none other than Norman Mailer “was given the medal of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest distinction, in ceremonies yesterday at the French Cultural embassy on the Upper East Side.” So, as far as our frog friends are concerned, Mr. Mailer, everyone’s favorite half-pint radical, is as honorable as they come.

Why, you may be wondering, did France bestow this award on Mr. Mailer? Surely a man who hasn’t written a decent book since 1948 doesn’t deserve plaudits for his honor, does he?

Jean-David Levitte, France’s ambassador to these here United States, explains: “Norman Mailer is an American hero with a fierce love of freedom, and an intellectual who has taken a stand in all the great struggles of his time—what we can un intellectuel engagé.”

Ah, we get it now: He deserves French accolades for his personal convictions and political acumen.

Now, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” don’t want to tell our froggy pals whom they can and cannot praise, but we think Mr. Mailer is actually lacking in the qualities Ambassador Levitte names. First, there is the matter of his “love of freedom.” As pleasant as that sounds, Mr. Mailer’s fierce anti-Americanism has led him to flirt with totalitarianism. Even a cursory examination of Mr. Mailer’s politics would lead one to conclude that he’s the very embodiment of radical chic. No incessant cheerleader for freedom, he.

And there is much more about Mr. Mailer’s past that should have troubled the French. Perhaps they didn’t realize that he once got drunk and stabbed his second wife Adele, nearly killing her? We thought France—or at least the non-Muslim sliver of it—was far more in-tune with feminism than the Neanderthals in the States; why would they praise a wife-stabbing, sex-obsessed freak like Mailer? Isn’t France the country of Simone de Beauvoir?

Nor should we forget Mr. Mailer’s attitudes toward blacks. In 1957, he penned an essay in Dissent magazine called “The White Negro.” One could hardly imagine a writing that offers a more paternalistic view of black people. As critic Roger Kimball writes, “Mailer’s stereotypical portrayal of blacks as beastlike sexual athletes is one of the many distasteful things about the essay.”

All in all, then, it appears as if the French love Norman Mailer because he has written sundry anti-American polemics that make the frogs feel better. Their Legion of Honor medal wasn’t so much awarded to Mr. Mailer as it was offered to allow the Gauls to thumb their nose at us.

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” say we should strike back. Let’s retroactively offer the Congressional Medal of Freedom to Robespierre. Now there’s a frog an American can love.

Posted at March 8, 2006 12:01 AM | TrackBack