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August 17, 2003 Mail

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I do send out some odd email, and receive equally odd email in return.  Here I will print some of it, with, now and then, my responses.   Before I post anyone's writing, I will ask your permission to post your comments and whether I should use your name or not, or use an alias you wish to use.
The mail sent to newspapers and posted to websites.
The French are dead.  And whining about it.  Huh?

Many of those with whom I correspond were on vacation this week.  My friend the high-powered Wall Street attorney was on Cape Cod and missed the blackout.  Others were here and there.  Everyone was off-line.  So I didn't receive startling posts.  I sort of scanned the mail posted on various political sites.  Yep, I was reading letters to the editor and such things.

Because I have friends in Paris I was reading a few items on the heat wave there, many weeks of highs over one hundred, and now it seems over three thousand heat-related deaths.

I came across a Washington Post editorial about the situation - "Can't Stand the Heat?"  (Thursday, August 14, 2003  Page A18 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55850-2003Aug13.html) in which the Post mocks the folks in Paris whining about what anyone in Washington or Texas would think is nothing. 

To listen to the fuss Europeans are making about their weather, anyone would think that it was actually hot over there. ...

Okay, so maybe it's a bit warmer than usual. Temperatures across the continent have shot up into the 90s and once or twice have topped 100 degrees in London and Paris. But is this really hot -- hot enough to close businesses, hot enough to cancel trains (the tracks might buckle), hot enough to wax nostalgic for the summer rain to which some Europeans, notably residents of the British Isles, are more accustomed?

Last time we checked, the weather here in Washington was in the upper 80s, which is average to low for this time of year. Temperatures in Houston and Dallas in the past couple of days have topped 100, as they usually do in summer. Yet somehow, no one's talking about extraordinary measures being taken by Texans or Washingtonians. On the contrary, President Bush, who qualifies as both, by some measures, is currently mocking the press corps by pretending to enjoy jogging in the Texas heat. Not all Europeans may want to go this far - but maybe they will now at least stop turning up their noses at those American summer inventions they've long loved to mock: The office window that doesn't open, the air conditioner that produces sub-arctic temperatures and the tall glass of water, served in a restaurant, filled to the brim with ice.

Well, with over three thousand dead, perhaps this was a bit insensitive.

A letter I came across from David Chapman in Angers, France, in reaction?

Today took the cake. The Washington Post Editorial Page outdid itself with a beauty entitled, "Can't Stand the Heat?". In it the gutless bastard of a writer took yet another cheap shot at being "cutesy" in what used to be a respectable paper. He/she wrote:

"To listen to the fuss the Europeans are making about their weather, anyone would think that it was actually hot over there."

FACT: at 5:00 pm Paris time today the DEATH TOLL FROM THIS HEAT WAVE STOOD AT 3,230. In France alone! No number available yet for Spain, Portugal, Italy, Corsica, Germany and other places.

If 3,230 deaths is "making a fuss", yes, we're making a fuss. What pisses me off more is that the bastard who took this cheap shot at a joke doesn't have the cojones to sign his/her name to the piece.

FACT: Overwhelmingly, the dead were elderly, octogenarians for the most part. They lived alone. They had no radio or TV (could not have afforded it on their fixed incomes.) And the died slowly from dehydration. I'll bet the closest that Washington Post writer gets to dehydration is being five minutes late for his/her after work martini.

He/she also quipped:
"It's a bit warmer than usual ... But is this really hot ... but maybe they will now at least stop turning up their noses at those American summer inventions they've loved to mock: The office windows that doesn't open, the air conditioner that produces sub-arctic temperatures and the tall glasses of water, served in a restaurant, filled to the brim with ice."

This asshole doesn't have a clue! Most of France is about 1,500 miles NORTH of Washington! Normally, we don't NEED windows welded shut so the landlord doesn't have to pay one nickel more that necessary for his A/C and heating bill. (P.S. - This kind of stupid architecture is what gave us that wonderful American invention - "Sick Building Syndrome".)

As for the air conditioning slap, when the average temperature this time of year is 70-75, who the hell needs it! We don't ... normally!  This is an exception, especially for 3,230 French old people. And, DO NOT FORGET ... THERE ARE SOME RECENTLY DEAD AMERICANS WHO DIDN'T HAVE AIR CONDITIONING EITHER!

Most of the dead here in France couldn't afford air conditioning even if it would fit in their window, which it probably would not. They couldn't afford to run it either. These people are poor people. Lonely, old and poor for the most part. But, hey, nobody on the Washington Post Editorial Staff gives a flying f - - - about poor people anywhere. And you don't have to come to France to see the proof of that!

As for the ice water in the restaurants, it is available. Normally, only American tourists demand it. If you never had it, you don't miss it. And, there are 3,230 dead French people ... mostly old ladies who lived alone who won't care if they have it now or not.

This asshole Editorial Writer should have the balls to go public with his or her name. This is not only bad journalism, it is simply in bad taste! As an ex-pat American living in France, this is more than embarrassing to me. It is despicable!

The French have a phrase for people like this writer ... mal élevé.

And a letter from one John O'Leary:

What exactly was the point of the Post's contemptuous editorial "Can't Stand the Heat?" in which the Post ridicules and demeans, much like an ill-mannered, mocking adolescent, the "fuss Europeans are making about their weather?"

This morning I read a dispatch from Reuters reporting "France's blistering heatwave has killed some 3,000 people in three weeks" with French health officials calling the death rate "epidemic." What a hoot!

I know the Post has not thought much of "old Europeans" lately for their refusal to march to the beat of the Mr. Bush's war on Iraq, but it could at the least hide its contempt and show some compassion for the current tragedy of the loss of so many lives.

And posted in lucianne.com this:

Reply 11 - Posted by: pakrat22, 8/14/2003 11:40:51 AM

What a bunch of wimps. No wonder they avoided Iraq, they knew they couldn't hack it.

Having been to France a number of times I can only imagine what the miasmic aroma of Paris must be like now. It was putrid even before the heat, probably requires a gas mask now.

And from a chat group I sometimes deal with:

I can't believe the kind of heartless crap some papers will print.  It's a shame the author of that editorial couldn't have been here.  It was miserable.  I grew up in Texas and even lived in Arizona where 110°F temps are the norm in the summer.  But try enduring those temps without any sort of air conditioning or cooling system.  I went all over Paris trying to buy a room cooler or air conditioner and every store was sold out!  I couldn't even buy a simple fan as they were all sold out as well.  Luckily we had two on hand but they make little difference in this kind of heat.
Each day I would feel my apartment heat up like an oven.  Keeping the curtains pulled tight didn't do much to keep it cool.  Nothing like the feeling of being roasted like a chicken.  This was truly a scary experience for me.  I did everything in my power to keep my 2 year old cool as children are very vulnerable to this kind of heat.  I even sat with wet towels on my belly to keep my unborn child from overheating.  We drank water and juice like fish but were still on the verge of dehydration most of the time.
At night it wasn't much better.  The heat would continue to emanate from the wood floors and walls of my apartment.  The air was still and heavy as a rock.  All of the windows were wide open but we still couldn't get a crossbreeze.  Most nights I didn't sleep because it was just too hot to sleep.
Yesterday, I was in the stairwell of my apartment and saw a coffin coming out of my neighbor's apartment.  Sweet old man.  I guess the heat was too much for him also

And another voice to folks in Paris in the chat group:

I didn't see the article that you describe and credited to the Washington Post since I live in Texas. I am ashamed any American that would write such a trashy and untasteful article especially since so many people died.
While we might not agree with France's decision to not take part in the Iraq war, but to make fun of innocent people who died is bad.
We had a couple of days over 107-109 a week ago, so I know what hot is. I have lived here all my life and I have seen many summers that we had 30 days of 100 + temperatures.  I have been in Paris when it has been 90 degrees and I have to admit it seemed hotter, but as stated Paris is a lot further north and they are not prepared for this heat. I was in Paris the first of July and the temperatures where in the low 70's.
Once again, I am ashamed that any American would make fun of people dying, so please accept my apology as one American who doesn't feel that way.

And so forth and so so.

Has the Washington Post misjudged how much the citizens of the United States hate the French and react with glee when they die?  Or was the anonymous editorial writer just having a bad day?

Worst case?  It seems most Americans, if the Post is correct, like the idea of dead French children and old people.  Or so it seems.   I guess the French should have approved our war.

More than likely this just reflects the new conservative mood of the country, where the prime virtue is personal responsibility.  The worst sin is whining.  It was hot.  People died.  Deal with it.  Why are the French such whiners?

It seems to me a French conservative, say someone like Jean-Marie Le Pen for example, could run the same number the other way.  Those planes took out the World Trade Center, and a big chunk of the Pentagon.  Well over three thousand people died.

So what?  Deal with it and stop whining about being the victims of terrorism like it makes you so special.  You're not.  That's the way the world has been working most places for many decades.  Join the club. 

But I doubt you'd see that published anywhere.