Speaking of the lethal Islamist attack on the French satirical newspaper, #CharlieHebdo, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, said this:
“No country knows better than France that freedom has a price, because France gave birth to democracy itself.”
I was immediately moved to send the SOS a tweet, which I can’t find, but briefly mentioned some sorry aspects of the painful French journey towards democracy, and concluded with “You fucking moron.”.
Intemperate, I admit, but accurate.
No one country gave birth to democracy and it would be a fair point to say that it is still evolving. However, it is, or was, common knowledge, that the earliest instances of some form of self rule were in the Classical world, first in the city States of Ancient Greece, and later, the Roman Republic.
While the Middle Ages saw the evolution of parliaments and assemblies, and oligarchic republics in Italy, the foremost of which was Venice, democracy with universal male suffrage did not appear until the Nineteenth Century.
France was significantly late to the party.
The American Declaration of Independence came in 1776 as we all know( Well, maybe not) and the French revolution in 1789, marked by the storming of the nearly empty Bastille and the slaughter of its jailors at the hands of a mob..
Thereafter followed factional fighting and various massacres conducted in the name of a National Assembly, the members of which were elected by no one. Danton, Marat, Robespierre: these names were and should still be by words for cold blooded revolutionary ferocity.
A National plebiscite with universal male suffrage for all workers (Thus, the aristocrats, and those living on investments were excluded) established the First Republic in 1792.
1793-4 saw the Reign of Terror, in which first aristocrats including the royals went to the guillotine for the crime of being who they were. Ordinary people soon became implicated as counter revolutionaries, and thousands died at hands of the executioners
Those today who cringe at the horrors carried out by ISIS should remember that the French revolution saw bleeding heads held up before baying mobs lusting for more.
Then of course came Napoleon, followed by a restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, who were in turn overthrown by the House Of Orleans, and a second Empire ruled by a nephew of Napoleon’s. He had been President of the Second Republic established in 1848, but by 1851, he’d decided he’d rather be emperor. The Germans captured him in the Franco- Prussian War. Now we are in 1870 and the Establishment of the Third Republic, which lasted until 1940.
All along, plenty of turmoil, street fighting, and general confusion. If you just skimmed this part, I don’t blame you.
In the war time hiatus, France managed to demonstrate its commitment to liberte, egalite, and fraternite by assisting quite ably in the deportation of the majority its Jews to the east and their deaths.
The post war Fourth Republic lasted until 1958, when it was ended with the accession of General De Gaulle to the Presidency. While ostensibly not an actual military coup in Metropolitan France, the change was forced by the threat of armed force, after a coup in Algeria, and seizure of the Island of Corsica by French paratroops based in Algeria.
So far, the Fifth Republic has endured, so maybe the French have finally gotten it right.
The American Revolution saw some vicious conflict, particularly where irregular forces were engaged, notably in Western New York and the Carolinas. After the war royalist sympathizers were forced to leave, not by government order, but by an impossible social situation. Most poignant of all, black slaves who saw no point in supporting a Revolution in which many of the principals were slaveholders, were in some cases re-enslaved, in others found themselves in Canada, or even Sierra Leone.
Nevertheless, after a steady expansion of the franchise and movement towards direct elections, the United States today lives under the original constitution of 1783, albeit much amended. Since 1789, nicely coincident with the French Revolution, the United States has continuously enjoyed peaceful transfers of power.
That a high official of the United States would in a foreign capital, ignore this history, for reasons I cannot fathom, is both disgusting and dismaying. Mr. Kerry is of an age and education, I am certain, long ago as it may have been since he studied history, that he knows these facts.
Our leaders in the West have no compunction in twisting and ignoring history in pursuit of their agendas. The perennial portrayal of the Islamic world as a passive victim, with no reference to the conquests that formed it, is a prime example of ahistoricity in support of power and manipulation.
Mr. Kerry’s Paris remarks are further proof that ruling elites, confident in the collaboration of the,the media, and the ignorance of deliberately mis-educated electorates, will continue to distort the past in service of the future they envision for all of us.