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Chris Stigall: French Lessons (Part 1)

By Chris Stigall

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - It took leaving our country to fall more deeply in love with it.  At least, what it has been.  My first trip to France really clarified for me just what makes us great and just how dangerous liberalism can be when actively applied.

A historic first: a two-part column!

I'd like to start by giving the French credit for a few things.  They don't eat.  They dine.  They don't "booze," they sip.  No honking, no shouting, no loud talking, no cell phones at dinner.  They are a people who seem to really enjoy living life and experiencing one another fully, uninterrupted by the daily noise of the world around them.

Which also annoyed the hell out of me.

Everything in France revolves around you adapting to what their social and societal structure demands. Laissez-faire is a beautiful way to live in a beautiful city like Paris, if you're there to vacation.  Maybe.

It's one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.  No doubt.  Charming, romantic, classy and classic.  But…

What if you want throat lozenges at 3am? There's no such thing as "24-hours."  How about a large cup of coffee at midnight? Nope. By they way – there's no such thing as a large coffee either.  I'm not kidding.  Coffee "to-go" is almost impossible to find, and if you do find it – it's served in a thimble.  In fact, anything "to-go" is largely a "no-go."  They just don't do it.

Maybe you want to buy some chocolates to take home for loved ones?  A famous chocolate shop is a quick cab ride.  Assuming you know they're closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.  And don't open until noon on Tuesday, and close to take an hour or two for lunch, and close promptly at 5pm each day.

Waiters, bar tenders, cab drivers – all salaried.  Many, if not most unionized.  They don't work for tips.  I had no idea.  It's also why my cocktail costs $10 and why the guy serving it to me doesn't give a damn if I'm happy, or even want another.

It's not that the French are rude, necessarily.  I had tons of pleasant, helpful interactions with French citizens – when I asked.  That's the rub.  French "rudeness," I think has been misinterpreted by our culture.  Rather, it's a total lack of drive.  Customer service.  Urgency.  It just doesn't exist because there's no incentive.

I know, I know.  I'm just a boorish, consumer-driven American.  Guilty.  But the United States gives folks what they want, when they want it, nearly any time of day. And that's how an economy grows.  That's how people create wealth.   It's also what drives people to earn.  Hustle for tip money.  Work late to climb the ladder.

It's what the American left hates.   Ivy-league Democrats truly see themselves as France.  Beauty, culture, smarts, concentrated control and wealth for themselves – while the masses become ambitionless dependents.

French socialist policies were unfolding before my very eyes during my visit.  I would have laughed at what I'm about to share if I wasn't shuttering at the thought of our EPA taking notes.

France's "Minister of the Environment" or some-such-title announced a bold new proclamation last week for citizens who drive cars.  She's declared a war on diesel fuel, calling for its extinction in coming years.  Never mind their entire bus system depends on it.

She announced a wonderful new level of French bureaucracy that will not only cost drivers more, but of course funnel money back into the hands of the almighty French government to protect the French from themselves.

Each vehicle will be issued one of 7 different colored stickers.  These stickers will allow the French government to determine just how obscene your particular vehicle is to them. Diesel user?  You get a BLACK sticker!  Plug in car – you get a greeeeen sticker. Ahhhh. (And so the judgmental rainbow ranking goes in between.)

But it gets better.

During ozone-alert days, if you have certain colored stickers deemed "environmentally hostile" you aren't allowed to drive it.  Seriously – you can't drive.  You will be fined if caught driving with the wrong sticker on the wrong day.

Oh, and did I mention the Queen of the Environment is the mother to the French president's four children?  He never married her.  Instead, he tossed her a powerful government post and paycheck for her womb, I guess.

Power-crazed bureaucrats creating new schemes to control your way of life while lining their own family pockets.  Sound familiar?

As our tour of Paris concluded with Versailles, I was briefly reminded of the French Revolution.  It's worth studying, and I intend to.  Opulent, royal families taxing, confiscating, and spending the French citizen's wealth on high living and palatial spaces.  Broke, depressed, angry citizens with no ambition or ability to better themselves.  An ugly, riotous ending.

Again. Sound familiar?

The American left, specifically those in Washington fancy themselves as culturally superior in all ways.  They cling to the secular.  They covet money and power.  They scheme to confiscate larger portions of the public's wealth.  Living by a different set of standards, they seek to control yours, as it's what's best for you.  The lesser.

France is beautiful nation whose citizens are once again allowing a pseudo-monarchy to rule their lives of malaise.  Perhaps the wine and fondue are so good in beautiful cities like Paris, they don't need to care.

But, here in the United States? I'm fighting like hell to keep my large cup of coffee at 4am while driving the car of my choice to the job I hope will one day make me rich.

God bless, America.

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