How the French turned Left, and we went Right
When July 14th (Bastille Day) rolls around, this observer is sometimes reminded of the vast differences between the French Revolution and the American Revolution.
Our Founding Fathers, as expressed so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence and re-stated so well in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, conceived of our nation as being guided by a Supreme Being: the God of both Jews and Christians. In other words, a nation “under God,” as most of us like to recite in our Pledge of Allegiance. At the outset, our Founders knew they needed Divine Providence.
From our Founders’ conception of how men and women (created in the image of God) should live and how we should be self-governed, has come the most successful nation in the history of the Planet Earth. But the French took a different lesson from their Revolution.
While the French were big on: “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity,” God was cast aside in favor of humankind as the “Supreme Being.” In effect, the French figured they were so all-fired smart that they didn’t need God’s help. The almost immediate result was anarchy during which some corrupt nobles of the “old regime,” but many more of France’s best and brightest, were led to the Guillotine. In fact, over 40,000 heads were lopped off.
French anarchy was followed by the dictatorship of Napoleon and many years of aggressive warfare during which millions of Europeans and even some Egyptians were killed. At Waterloo, our British cousins put an end to Napoleon’s dictatorial rule. But the French conception of the relationship between humankind and government lingered on in the writings of Rousseau, Marx, and Lenin.
Overdosing on Richard Wagner, Hitler conceived of the German “Volk” as a form of God needing his leadership. But when his “Volk” got their rear ends kicked by the Allies, Hitler decided his “Volk” didn’t deserve his leadership and shot himself.
Like the French revolutionaries, both Stalin and Ho Chi Minh believed in killing off the “old regime.” For the “crime” of having served in Russia’s pre-revolutionary armed forces, Stalin executed virtually all of the former Czar’s officers. In North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh executed almost all of the French-trained physicians, engineers, teachers and others with any useful skill sets.
When the U.S. Congress reneged on the Paris Accords to prevent a full-scale of invasion of South Vietnam and all of Southeast Asia (the dominoes) fell to the Communists, Pol Pot then slaughtered over two million Cambodians. Again, the people with the skill sets needed to make a better Cambodia were taken to the “killing fields” and murdered.
So, let’s compare the results from these two vastly differing conceptions of the role of humankind and God in the affairs of men and women. Drum roll, please. France is a laughing stock, and pretty much has been since 1815.
Then, after losing the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, France went on to foul up European politics so badly that we and the British had to rescue them twice in the 20th Century. Today, after helping conceive the European Union, French President Jacques (oil buddy of Saddam) Chirac, can’t get the French to vote for an EU constitution.
The Recent Big 8 Summit in Scotland should have laid African poverty at the feet of the former colonial powers – mainly, the French. We never had African colonies. But if we are to send tax dollars to Africa, let’s be more efficient and send them directly to the Swiss bank accounts of the African dictators.
While the U.S. is doing a remarkable job of reducing air pollution, the biggest source of pollution is coming from those millions of all-day, all-night cooking and warming fires around which huddle the masses who, once shed of colonialism, find themselves impoverished by socio-economic ideologies derived from the French Revolution. Happy Bastille Day.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
©2005. William Hamilton.