C’est quatorze juillet – Fête Nationale de France. There. I have just depleted my meager store of French.
July Fourteenth. France’s National Holiday, commemorating the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which was retrospectively understood to have launched the French Revolution.
“Storm the Bastille!” Some of us say that from time to time. It’s linked to a growing belief that Americans need to show up. We need to gather together to demonstrate that we are unwilling to tolerate BushCo for even one more day. So, yeah, storm the Bastille. Click to read on, mes amis!
I decided that before I go any farther with this, I'd best reacquaint myself with that pivotal time in France’s history. I checked several sources, including this, and this, and this, and this, and yes, even this. There’s a lot of stuff about the French Revolution out there.
Some people think that their Revolution was about economics. Wealth and power were granted to the nobles and the clergy, bypassing the middle class (aka the bourgeoisie). This did not make the bourgeoisie happy, to say the least. No one cared a fig about the lower class. And everyone, except the privileged few, was hungry.
A different school of thought holds that the root cause of the Revolution was political. Louis XVI had defended France militarily but the people “resented the rising and unequal taxes, the persecution of religious minorities, and government interference in their private lives. These resentments, coupled with an inefficient government and an antiquated legal system made the government seem increasingly illegitimate to the French people.”
But wait! There’s more. “...the monarchy almost always spent more each year than it collected in taxes; consequently it was forced to borrow....Debt grew in part because France participated in a series of costly wars....”
From another source we learn that "inefficient taxation and costly foreign wars" had plunged France into debt. Louis summoned a council of nobles, who couldn't find a solution. So for the first time since 1614, the Estates-General (the main representative body of the French people) was called. "Within days of meeting, the Estates-General was clamouring for reforms and criticising the monarchy and its policies."
Finally, just a few weeks before 7/14, Louis caved and promised to introduce reforms to the financial system and other dicey areas of government. The people were skeptical. And believing that Louis would attack them, they went looking for ways to arm themselves.
The people who lived near the Bastille had assorted levels of education and wealth. They were “workers” and artisans. The journalists and lawyers among them “most aggressively took up the political cause of ‘the people.’”
In the three day run-up to July 14, there were protests about high bread prices. Louis’ troops were sent to monitor the situation. Finally, in search of guns and ammunition, a mob (everyone?) stormed the Bastille fortress on July 14. They didn’t find much there. There was a four-hour battle that culminated in the beheading of the Bastille’s commander. The mob freed the prisoners – seven in all. Reportedly “two madmen, a profligate, and four forgers.” Sometime later, mobs tore down the Bastille. For the balance of the summer of ’89, there were uprisings in most of France’s major cities.
And there you have Storm the Bastille Lite. That violent day was followed by a decade of, shall we say, adjustment. Think Robespierre, the execution of Louis' wife Marie Antoinette, the Reign of Terror, and Women Who Knit. The French had endured the indignities of monarch abuse for so long a time, it took them a while to get things right.
Fade to the United States of America, Y2007. I have to tell you that I am longing for an enormous throng of Americans to surge the White House, Congress, fill the Mall and also the streets of towns and cities far from Washington D.C.
I’m not advocating violence. But I am advocating for Americans to gather in protest of all things BushCo. It is time. Actually, it's beyond time. I think the last significantly large "peace march" in my hometown was in 2002 -- a few days after Paul Wellstone's plane went down.
So what do we do? We rise up from our computer chairs, our sofas, our assembly lines, our tractors. Maybe we just close down the country for a day or two. We carry signs. We speak our disgust. As the saying goes, we speak truth to power, even as power cowers in dark places. Hell, we can sing “Kumbayah” together if that helps.
However it plays out, I do believe we’ve come to the place where a huge presence of disgusted American citizens is called for. It's time for us to demonstrate to BushCo and to Congress that we’re fed up and rising. Big talk, eh? Where are the logistics folks?
Not gonna preach on this any more. Well, not today anyway.