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The Bastille is Being Stormed

The Bastille is Being Stormed

By Ken Mondschein

This is Donald Trump’s Louis XVI moment. Though the French Revolution is most definitely postmedieval—and unrivalled for the apathy many of my undergraduates have shown towards it—never has the fall of the French feudal regime been more relevant to current events.

This is a moment when those who did not study the mistakes of history are repeating them. Like America, France was divided into classes, and those that owned the lion’s share of the wealth were unaccountable to the public good because they were immune to both taxation and the ordinary rule of law.

Like America, those without privilege were forced to pay special, exorbitant, and often private taxes—what we today call the “cost of poverty.”

Like America, your lack of privilege was inherited and you could only escape it in very unusual circumstances.

Like America, the contrast between privilege and its absence was on full display in the cities.

Like America, those without privilege were passed over for social and economic advancement.

Like America, those with privilege had a chokehold on the government.

Like America, those with privilege acted without the slightest sense of noblesse oblige.

Like America, there was no justice, due process, or right to a fair trial for those without privilege.

Like America, there were longstanding and unheard social and intellectual movements critiquing the status quo.

Like America, the delegitimization of the governmental system was brought about by new media—the printing press publicizing causes célèbres in the case of France, social media publicizing racial injustice in the case of America.

Like America, there were unheard cries to reform the system.

Like America, many of the more rural areas were deeply conservative and held to traditional values.

Like America, the Revolution was primed by an economic crisis.

And, like America, the precipitating moment came when a weak and vacillating leader, in response to the sycophants with which he had surrounded himself, surrounded the capital city with soldiers and threatened a massacre. Trump has done more than this: Wrapped in the flag and holding the Bible, he has deployed military force to clear people from in front of a church—people who were acting more like Christians than he could ever hope to understand.

My fellow Americans, the Bastille is being stormed. This is Donald Trump’s—and the American Right’s—Louis XVI moment. While he is unlikely to face the guillotine’s literal blade, this must be the moment in which the ancien régime gets it in the neck.

Ken Mondschein is a history professor at UMass-Mt. Ida College, Anna Maria College, and Boston University, as well as a fencing master and jouster. .

Top Image: “The Storming of the Bastille”, by Jean-Pierre Houël (1735–1813)


Watch the video: Horrible Histories HHTV News Storming The Bastile (December 2021).