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City native says French criticism is unwarranted

Kathrine Sindell, who moved to Samur, France, characterized the local backlash to a sister-city relationship with the French tow

Kathrine Sindell, who moved to Samur, France, characterized the local backlash to a sister-city relationship with the French tow

April 29, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Local residents' criticism of the French, sparked by a proposal by the city of Saumur, France, to have a sister-city relationship with Hagerstown, is misdirected anger, Kathryn Sindell, a Hagerstown native who moved to Saumur in late 2002, said this weekend.

Most who have called, written or been interviewed by The Herald-Mail have either spoken against the idea or suggested consideration of a sister-city relationship be delayed. Many cited French President Jacques Chirac's criticism of the war in Iraq as the reason for their opposition.

Chirac's comments should not stop the program, which would be beneficial to both cities, Andr Daheuill, head of the nonpolitical Association Saumur Relations Internationales (ASRI), said in an e-mail this weekend.

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"To deprive our children (American and French) of such an opportunity because of differences of opinion about a war would be a real tragedy. ASRI is extending the hand of friendship and I am not prepared to withdraw the proposal. We are going forward," he said.

Sindell, a Hagerstown native who moved to Saumur in late 2002, is helping the association try to create the bond with Hagerstown. The association encourages peace and friendship in international relations through the fields of education, sports, and social contacts, among other work, she said.

Sindell and Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said that stopping the proposal because of Chirac is both unfair and short-sighted.

"ASRI and Saumur residents (and the entire French population) have had no more control on French government decisions anymore than the residents of Hagerstown (and all over the U.S.) have had on those of the American government," Sindell wrote. "In other words, President Chirac didn't ask for the feelings of French citizens before he made the decision not to help America bomb Iraq, no more than President Bush called on American citizens to get our points of view."

Sindell has watched the news coverage of the issue with interest.

"I must say that the intense hatred and animosity many Americans are aiming at France and its people have shocked and saddened its people, including Americans like me, who reside in France ... The amount of blatant hatred coming from many American citizens at this time has been thoroughly inappropriate in connection with ASRI," she wrote.

"For a start, these people seem to hate the French far more than they do the actual terrorists and the destruction these horrible people have caused to our country. Instead of removing French terms from menus and pretending France doesn't exist, wouldn't it be more appropriate to direct the anger where it belongs - with the fanatical terrorists who brought down planes, killed thousands of innocent people and brought down the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?" she asked.




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