Remember Freedom Fries? After the Bush Administration invaded Iraq, French officials were vilified for criticizing the American government. Ironically, what France was saying has now come to pass. The French worried that an invasion of Iraq would destabilize the region and lead to an increase in terrorism. Guess what?
The sad irony is that France, not America, has paid a horrific price for that destabilization with the recent series of coordinated terrorist attacks across Paris.
Back in the early 2000s, anti-French rhetoric was rampant in America. The French were portrayed as weak and cowardly, and President Bush scathingly declared that the U.S. was not going to seek approval for its foreign policy decisions from the likes of France. Demonstrators poured French wine into the street and changed the names French fries and French toast to Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast.
Now suddenly the French are our beloved brothers and sisters, and we stand in solidarity with them. Photos of the Eiffel Tower are scattered all over Facebook. Don’t get me wrong. I think we should show solidarity with the French. But I am disgusted by the hypocrisy of conservatives who only cozy up to someone when it’s politically expedient to do so. Any pretext to enmesh our military more deeply in the Syrian civil war will do.
The about face on France reminds me of the past animosity between conservatives and American Jews. For the most part, Jews in America have leaned to the liberal side in the political sphere. During the Fifties, at the height of fears about Communism, Jews were often persecuted and viewed with suspicion. Likewise, many conservative Christians vilified Jews and blamed them for killing Christ. But in recent times, as Evangelicals have seen in the state of Israel a path toward Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ, they have embraced Jews in an awkward hug. Neoconservatives see Israel as an ally and focal point in their hawkish policy positions on the Middle East. Once again, politics turns enemies into unlikely allies.
Most tragically to me, just a few weeks ago, conservative politicians were waving around photos of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe or washed up on shore, drowned. Their aim was to pressure President Obama into increased military action, including “boots on the ground,” something the president has rightly been reluctant to do. Now, after the Paris massacres, these same politicians are advocating that we turn Syrian refugees away on the grounds that some of them may be terrorists.
Conservatives have been shameless in pandering to whatever segment of the population they think will advance their agenda. So if they buddy up to you, be careful. Their friendship comes with strings attached.