With the world in turmoil, France’s President Jacques Chirac in his 2006 annual New Year’s eve address named various challenges facing his own country, including racism, anti-semitism, and immigration policy. According to the Washington Post, the riots and gang violence that made world headlines in late 2005 were “the most dramatic social uprising since 1968”, and instances of socio-political violence continued into 2006.

As the war in Iraq continues and sadly seems poised to escalate (or to use our government’s preferred newspeak word “surge”), one would assume France’s own political turmoil can only be inflamed by increasing world violence.

But luckily, France seems to be focusing its attention where it most matters: on manners and civility. According to a January 11, 2007 article in the New York Times, France, often and not always fairly chastised for its pervasive rudeness, has decided to make politeness its mission. Quelle grande idée! If such a policy can tame a notoriously rude nation like France (as we must assume it will), why not bring THIS type of “civil” war to Iraq instead of our latest plan to increase troops? For the love of God…couldn’t we just get some French guys (some can even be named Guy) to come to Iraq, sit down with the warring factions and let them in on some of those oh-so effective French manners?

Since most of what we’ve done so far is absurd as far as I’m concerned, why couldn’t this offer a more viable solution? What if the civil war that is clearly going on right now in Iraq is not about politics at all, but merely some minor misunderstandings about social gaffes? Maybe the entire Sunni and Shiite divide could be cleared up by borrowing a a few simple French rules.

For instance, following up on the French suggestions, maybe we will find that the Sunnis simply speak too loudly on their cellphones – like when planning attacks. Could a simple agreement to speak more softly ward off a nasty counter-attack? In another example the NY Times uses, the French suggest citizens should “avoid whacking their neighbors with their backpacks.” – and I would think backpacks filled with bombs would certainly fit this suggestion.

If a person of the Shiite faith were to be invited to a Sunni home for dinner, civility would surely follow if s/he were merely to remember that “a box of chocolates is an appropriate gift when invited for dinner, to be deposited at the entrance with a gift card. Flowers can be sent either just before the dinner or, better, the following day. Wine is not an appropriate dinner gift. (It assumes that the host does not have good taste.) Always arrive at a dinner party 15 minutes late.” And, no matter how pressing the urge, “It is best to avoid using the powder room at all, but if there is absolutely no choice, it must be done discreetly.”

Just imagine if we pulled out our troops and allowed French diplomats, in the truest sense, to come to Iraq and simply teach them all to get along. You know…the way the French do.

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Just a note: A friend of mine read this and was upset that I could find any humor in such an awful war. I apologize if this offends anyone. Please know I find no humor in the casualties of war – just the dark absurdity of the politics. My heart goes out to our soldiers, their families, and the many Iraqi people who have lost their lives – as well as all those who still face life-threatening situations every day. I pray that this will end soon for all our sakes.

Ronnie Ann