14 Juillet

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sure that his loyal readers have by this time heard that today is July 14th. That means in France they are celebrating 14 Juillet, or Fête de la Fédération, or Fête nationale, or (in English) Bastille Day.

Many in the blogosphere, at least the more “right wing” areas of it, don’t have a lot of nice things to say about the French. Frankly, your Maximum Leader has done his fair share of French flogging here and in his personal life. Your Maximum Leader and Smallholder can’t get together without doing a little joking at the expense of the French. But from time to time your Maximum Leader would like to get off the bash France wagon and point out some redeeming qualities in our sometimes friend and ally.

Well… Most of the redeeming qualities of France are not related to politics. They are cultural and culinary qualities. First, allow your Maximum Leader to say that every Frenchman/woman he’s met personally has been absolutely charming. Now, he’s not traveled to France - which might change his opinion - but he’s always found citizens of France that he’s met to be good company. And did your Maximum Leader mention that the French know how to cook. Well… Perhaps all Parisians don’t know how because they eat out, but outside of Paris it seems to be a different story. Your Maximum Leader is a great fan of French provincal cooking. It is hearty fare with a flair. Also, being a cheese lover - the French have got lots of fine cheeses…

And speaking of cheese, that brings your Maximum Leader to politics. Charles de Gaulle is purported to have commented that is it nearly impossible to govern a nation that has over 400 types of cheese. No doubt that is true. But we as Americans should respect the French people for their actions of 217 years ago. They did throw off an autocratic government that oppressed them and kept them in poverty and servitude. (Certainly 18th Century France was a less pleasant place to be than pre-Revolutionary America…) The French Revolution didn’t go the way of the American Revolution. And that has been too bad for the French. In many ways one might attribute the ebb and flow of the French Republic to the nature of the autocratic government they overthrew.

That the French Revolution decented into rampant bloodshed and eventually to a new autocracy can be viewed through the lens of trying to redress grievences t an extreme. The people of France were badly governed by their autocratic king and courtiers. They did not enjoy the freedoms that an Englishman (or Scot or Welshman) of the same period enjoyed. They realized they deserved better. But they didn’t get better. Your Maximum Leader likes to use the French Revolution as an illustration of 18th Century Rationalism gone amuck. By trying to apply reason without common sense and restraint you wind up with a recipie for disaster. This realization came to your Maximum Leader twice in his life. The first time was while reading Burke’s “Reflections.” No shock there. But the second time was when he had write a paper on Robespierre for an upper division history seminar. At some point your Maximum Leader was reading over letters Robespierre had written during the Terror and it was like a light went on in his mind and all was revealed. Robespierre (and so many other French Revolutionaries) felt like they had so much work to do to rebuild France as a modern enlightened republic. But rebuilding on existing foundations was not possible. All had to be destroyed so that the new could be built.* The French Revolutionaries took their noble ideas to a horrific extreme.

Over 217 years one can see the hand of the French Revolution still at work in French politics today. The French can still “mix up” the international community. While revolutionary France is not exporting armies to liberate Europe, France still charts its own course it the world. The French continue to deal internally with how the revolutionary idea of secularism interacts with their growing muslim population. The French yearning for equality and equal treatment influences their socialist social policies and economy to a great (and your Maximum Leader would say bad) extent.

Your Maximum Leader wishes any Frenchmen reading this (decidedly Anglo-American) site a happy Bastille Day. He hope you might ponder your own revolution and that of the US. We didn’t always get it right, but we’re still learning. The same could be said for France. He hopes you’re learning too.

Carry on.

This, by the way, is your Maximum Leader’s typical objection to most “liberals” who want grand programs to “fix” some problem. The grand plan always starts with the wiping away of everything before. What went before is not all bad and discarding it is not always a good idea. Slow and incremental change is better.

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