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Oui c'est Macron!

Macron Is the New Chocolat

(Mah-krOHH Is the New Shah-kol-AHH)

Every few years a delectable French word splashes into popular culture to the absolute delight of many. They lust for an opportunity to say the word with a robust, over-pronounced French accent, even if they don’t actually speak the language beyond “bonjour,” “oui” and “fromage.”

Allow me to take you in the Wayback Machine for a quick trip to the year 2000. The movie “Chocolat” had just been released and countless people were imploring me to see it, just so they could flamboyantly drop the movie title into conversation. They never said the title just once. “Chocolat” coming from their mouths was more tantalizingly delicious than actual chocolate going in. Their hands and faces were sticky with saying it. They couldn’t resist repeating the movie title over and over with a flourish of Frenchification, often joined with a flip of their hand or hair. And, it was never a movie. It was a “film.”

Have you seen the film ShahkolAHH?

You absolutely must see ShahkolAHH!

ShahkolAHH is such a divine film!

ShahkolAHH is to die for!

Please do tell me when you’ve seen ShahkolAHH! We must discuss ShahkolAHH!

With every insult of “ShahkolAHH!” I flinched and knew something mean was being conjured out of me. I couldn’t help it. I would respond to the offense with my face contorted in obvious confusion and then suddenly smile broadly with recognition and say “OH! You mean Chocolate! Yup, yup, pretty good movie. A bit pretentious, though. It seemed odd to have a French actress speaking English in France, instead of using subtitles. But, I guess that’s just so the American audience could understand it. Unless you speak French…? No? Oh, that’s a shame.”

I believe that outburst is my involuntary defense mechanism in response to overt pretense. Whenever a lofty & haughty conversation becomes overly conspicuous in its flamboyance, a force may be released from within me to drag the conversation down in order to restore balance in the universe. This internal force is the anti-pretense hero, put on this earth to combat the evil forces of extreme pretense. My ability to contain him is inversely proportional to the extent of the pretentious transgression. When faced with overt pretense of fabulously grand proportions, I am no more able to contain him than a werewolf can resist the full moon. We all have our cross to bear.

I struggle to suppress the furious anti-pretense hero whenever someone speaking typical American English throws in one foreign word with a flourish of over-pronunciation. This is true for any language, but always seems most obvious with French. There will always be internal rumblings from my anti-pretense hero when foodies vigorously praise fancy restaurants awarded stars by “Meeshaylahhn,” and when recent travelers breathlessly describe their visit to “Paree” where they went to the top of the “Toohr EefEHLL” in a conversation otherwise devoid of French. There is always a consistent baseline occurrence of these offenses for my inner hero to endure. The anti-pretense hero usually stays quiet on the outside during these ostentatious skirmishes, but I am struggling mightily to contain him within. It’s a hard-fought battle nobody ever sees.

A few years ago, there were intense rumblings from my anti-pretense hero when the Broadway show “Les Miserables” was made into a heavily promoted movie. The entire country immediately learned how to over-pronounce “Lay MizEHRahblooh.” I feared the worst from my anti-pretense hero. This was luckily a brief uprising from the evil forces of pretense, however, softened by the many years over which everyone had become accustomed to simply calling the stage show “Les Mis.” The movie was quickly referred to by the same abbreviation. And, so was the film.

The anti-pretense hero was adequately mollified. This allowed us to endure the overtly pretentious academy awards show during which Meryl Streep and many other Hollywood elite put their heavily practiced language skills on grand display with lofty compliments for the fully pronounced “Lay MizEHRahblooh!” Thankfully this only lasted a few hours. Any more of that nonsense and the insuppressible hero would have mercilessly advanced on Hollywood to lay it in complete ruin.

Other than the brief Les Miserables insurrection, and the consistent baseline assault level of unnecessary Frenchification, it has been relatively quiet since Chocolat. The constantly agitated hero has been contained. Until now…

The evil forces of pretense are once again swarming aggressively ever since the final month of the French presidential campaign battle between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. The speed with which our entire nation taught themselves to over-pronounce “MahKrOHH” and “Le Pehh” without learning any other word of French was nothing short of incredible.

This startled the anti-pretense hero, and that is not without consequence. The belabored enunciation of those French names thrown into a sentence otherwise spoken in a thick New York or Boston accent has me writhing on the floor and foaming at the mouth in a losing effort to suppress my anti-pretense hero. The hero is fueled by the magnitude of a pretentious action embraced by so many with persistent duration. We learned this from Chocolat. But…this is so much worse.

Please help. My inner battle with the anti-pretense hero has escalated dramatically. Ever since “MahkrOHH!!” won the election, his name has become everyone’s new favorite French word. Please understand me…I get it. I really do. Macron is worth celebrating. A win for Le Pen would have suggested that the world supported the nationalistic ideals of Donald Trump. Everyone on the right would have proudly called it “the Trump effect” and felt validated in their affection for The Donald and all that he does.

Macron is the anti-Trump hero for many. They want to show how much they appreciate Macron…and well they should! But, if we go about this the wrong way, there could be disastrous consequences. A display of support for Macron cannot be confused with a need to flamboyantly butcher the man’s name. Otherwise, the anti-pretense hero may be forever on the rampage, viciously stomping his boot into the neck of pretense until it behaves itself. I fear that if I lose this greatest of battles to suppress my anti-pretense hero, he will take me over completely and I will cease to exist.

I fear that a permanently unleashed anti-pretense hero could wreak unending havoc on this earth at cocktail parties, museum exhibit openings and book groups everywhere…perhaps near you. Anywhere. No one would be safe. I’m begging you to help. Please. Pull back hard with all your might on the reigns of “MahkrOHH!!” Don’t just do it for me. Do it for the safety of all those poor souls at polo matches, gallery openings and poetry readings whose events will be ruined if the anti-pretense hero is unleashed. An incensed anti-pretense hero rampaging to quell such a substantial uprising of overt pretense is incapable of distinguishing good intentions from bad. The collateral damage could be extensive. My only request…unless you are speaking fluent French…please pronounce “Macron” with only the very slightest roll of the “r.” Nothing more. Don’t overdo it. Don’t bring attention to yourself. Please. It hasn’t been this bad since ShahkolAHH!!

Asshole, Arse, Jerk

Don’t Be Such an ARSOL

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we came up with a new form of punishment for chronically aggressive drivers which forced them to walk the same way they drive, no matter what the consequences? I’m not talking about speeding. That has its own clear set of rules enforced by speed traps, radar guns, speed limits, etc. We’re all set there. Plus, we can’t expect speed demons to run as fast as their cars hurl them down the road.

I’m talking about all that other selfish, in-your-face, fuck-you-buddy aggression like tail-gating, blowing through stop signs and cutting people off. I’m talking about that childish behavior most people only exhibit when they’re safely wrapped in two tons of automobile. That car provides a lot of protection from retribution. That security blanket creates a lot of bravery these assholes wouldn’t otherwise display. If these drivers enrage some murderous psycho, they can just hide in their car like a turtle in its shell. But…What if that was all stripped away? Imagine their bravery disintegrating once the turtle has no shell, its frail little body is exposed. What effect would this have on the psyche of an aggressive asshole?

I don’t know the best way to prove someone has a chronic issue with aggressive driving of this type. But, let’s just say that an asshole…like that pickup truck-driving skinhead we’ve all met…yeah, him for example…let’s imagine he gets “dinged” by other drivers turning in just enough dashcam video of him cutting people off & flipping them the bird. The case has been made thanks to overwhelming evidence provided by his fellow citizens. He gets a court summons in the mail. The tape is reviewed. Yep, it’s confirmed, you’re a complete and total asshole buddy. The gavel comes down. Guilty. Mr. Wannabe Vin Diesel gets a heavy fine and is sentenced to 6 months of walking the way he drives, no matter what.

If Mr. Faux Vin Diesel refuses, his only alternative is a minimum of 2 year’s hard labor…toiling away at…you guessed it…building roads. Quaint, safe roads with school zones, lots of speed bumps, stop signs, cross walks & flower beds right down the middle. The chain gang is supervised by gold minivan-driving mommies and cautious old ladies. That’s hard time to serve for a guy like him. It’s too humiliating for his fragile ego to withstand. So, Mr. I-wish-I-was-Dominic-Toretto accepts the 6 months of walking the same asshole way he drives. He’s appointed a court supervisor & must also wear a bodycam to ensure he can’t cheat on this program one bit. The sentence begins.

He is now officially enrolled in the Aggression Rehabilitation System Obligatory Listing, or ARSOL. Enrollees will be called ARSOL’s for short. Everyone can quickly grasp what an ARSOL is all about, which helps greatly with building program awareness in the community. His car is affixed with a large sticker displaying a scarlet letter “A” to identify him as an ARSOL. But, when no longer in his car, and he’s walking the streets, there’s nothing to identify him as an ARSOL other than his uniquely bad behavior.

For the next six months, regardless of the risks or consequences, our friend needs to approach a line for movie tickets, the airport ticket counter, the DMV or even the buffet at a wedding…exactly as he did behind the wheel before he got busted. He must slowly cruise along the line like he has no intention of joining, then suddenly jump in when he sees the slightest gap. He then stares firmly off to the side, refusing to make eye contact, arms folded tightly across his chest, clenched jaw belying his casual pretense of “What? I didn’t do anything. Just drivin’ here.” Exactly what you would expect from an ARSOL.

If anyone in line complains in any way (any verbal honk or beep whatsoever) he quickly flips the bird over his shoulder without even looking back. He’s also sure to flex his bird-flipping arm as hard as he can, regardless of whether there’s anything worth flexing or not. If the complaint behind him gets any louder, the flipped bird clearly not having done its job, he gestures a parody of the shadow puppet quacking duck “wa wa wa” to say “whatev…can’t hear your noise. Take it bitch.” He still doesn’t look behind him, just as if he were safely encased in those two tons of steel, rubber & plastic.

Now, if that person behind him barking complaints should happen to be a short-fused mixed martial arts fighter on his first date with a girl he really wants to impress…and he only knows so many ways to impress…then the ARSOL gets a vicious public beating. Small children will casually step over his mangled body when it’s over. Oh well. So be it.

Anyone who regularly insults and further provokes random people is eventually going to detonate a bomb of rage. That rage could be manifested in the form of a dozen high school girls ferociously attacking him from all sides like piranhas…or perhaps one solid, swinging-for-the fences whack to his head from old man’s cane. Danger is all around the ARSOL in many forms and he has no protection. He quickly learns there are brutal consequences for being an ARSOL. As the months of his sentence wear on…with retribution at McDonald’s to CostCo to his busy local bar on a Friday night to the amusement park with his kids…he might be cured of a wide range of ARSOLishness through repeted aversion therapy.

Aside from the threat of constantly being beaten senseless in public for all to see, our friend could face many other tough social repercussions. In his office lobby waiting with coworkers for the elevator…as the doors open to let other people out, and his group begins to shuffle forward…he cuts in front of them so they all need to pull up to a full stop. Our friend jumps on just as the doors close, flipping the bird over his shoulder. Now they all know they work with a complete and total ARSOL, and the word gets around fast. He will be eating lunch alone for the rest of his career. And he can forget about that promotion.

Maybe he pulls that same ARSOL move just before a job interview. And, very soon afterwards, he’s looking across a desk at the cut-off victim, answering that famous interview question; “So, tell me about your greatest weakness.” Gulp. Gotta be honest. How best to answer the question? The ARSOL may have many weaknesses. But, the interviewer just witnessed a big one moments ago. Gotta fess up on that. No choice.

“Okay. My greatest weakness. Right. Well, you see I’ve got this passive-aggressive asshole streak whereby I make myself feel better by depriving others of their peace and space. But, I only do this when cloaked in anonymity and encased in the protective shell of my car. I’m basically a shallow coward who watches way too many action movies…I never really grew up…I’m a real selfish prick when I can get away with it…not exactly the team player you’re looking for…uh, but, crap, uh, then you already knew that…soooo…there’s no sense wasting any more of your time…I’ll be going now…oh, but first…sorry, do you validate parking? I need to escape your garage, get back behind the wheel…and continue my ARSOL rehabilitation. I’ve only been an ARSOL for two months. But, it feels like it’s been forever.”

It has been forever, buddy. It has been. You were an ARSOL long before that sticker was ever put on your car.

As the ARSOL skulks out of the office with his head down…past all the staff workers who now know what he’s all about…because the word has gotten around fast…they’re all mulling over the same thought: The fact that these ARSOL’s didn’t previously walk the way they drive suggests that fear of retribution was the only ingredient missing to cure them of their chronic ARSOLery. They just needed to be ripped out of their shell and exposed to the real fear of physical harm, public shame and loss of opportunity. The effect on these AROL’s is dramatic. Why had we never thought of this before? Thank goodness for the ARSOL program. Thank goodness it is here to stay. But just one question…why is the sentence only six months?