Before Heads Roll

Bernard Jordan thought he was one lucky Frenchman. An aristocrat, he had been appointed by the king to one of the cushiest jobs in the country. He was put in charge of only seven men who were residing in what had once been, since 1350, a teeming royal prison for the multitude of high-born nobles who had somehow offended the king.

Now there were only these seven older gentlemen left residing within the enormous structure. It was used mostly as an armory for storing weapons. Jordan was presiding over what was a virtually empty old folks home, which the king himself planned to demolish in the near future.

I bet you’ve heard of the prison: The Bastille in Paris? On July 14, 1789, it became Misinformation Central. A delegation of dissatisfied Parisians was sent to ask Jordan, as superintendent, if he could turn the cannons, which had been atop the battlements for centuries, away from the city, since the people were tense with talk of revolution and the cannons were becoming a symbol of hated royal authority. Not only did Jordan amicably agree to the request, he invited the deputies in for a luncheon. 

Meanwhile, the broadsheets, tabloids, and street criers of the day had been hourly feeding the populace reports that the Bastille had within it hundreds of innocent victims of the wrath of King Louis XVI, who, in fact, was a mild, insecure king who possessed no wrath whatsoever.

When the polite committee was lunching inside, a crowd began launching demands outside for admittance to raid the armory and equip themselves for a fight. The crowd quickly turned into an ugly mob, which found a way to lower the drawbridge and poured into the Bastille. The royal guards who defended the armory fired shots, and a few in the mob seized weapons and returned fire. Superintendent Jordan wisely surrendered the Bastille.

The mob, outraged that some of their group had been fired upon, kicked Jordan to death, sliced off his head, and put it on a spike as they paraded from the Bastille. Within the hour, broadsheets were handed out that headlined the just punishment of this vicious, hated representative of royal abuse. The French Revolution had begun. 

In all the histories of the Revolution, it is emphasized that no matter what warring classes these patriots belonged to — royals, nobles, bourgeois, peasant — the one point of agreement was how much they all loved France.

I’ll make another bet. You are thinking this is not a random world history lesson. Correct. Since we are currently living through disorderly, if not revolutionary, times, is there any lesson we might glean from 1790’s France? Well, we certainly have warring political classes as the French did and, even more certainly, most of us love our country as much as they did. And social media is often as guilty at spreading misinformation as the more primitive media did back then. The word “misinformation” goes all the way back to Shakespeare’s time.

As opposed to revolutionary France, we are living in an age of DIS-information, a term first appearing only fifty years ago. This term differs from misinformation in that its sole purpose is to be divisive —because it is misinformation that is knowingly spread with vicious intent. In our current political situation, its main goal is to drive The Left further left, the Right further right. 

Ironically, even disinformation today can hardly keep up with our own absurd reality. We have seen an extreme “leftist” who needed more “context“ to determine if calling for the genocide of Jews would violate a university’s bullying policy; and then there’s the extreme “rightist” who protests any gun-owner background checks, regardless of how many massacres.

Our American Revolution has the Declaration of Independence at its heart. We no longer need that particular declaration, since we separated from England 248 years ago. We are such a different America now. And so may I humbly propose that we adopt a Declaration of Interdependence? It would be a document reminding us of how much we all need to respect each other as fellow human beings — be we left-leaning, right-leaning, or centrists — and keep foremost in mind the American values we were being taught when we rose in kindergarten, on our little legs, to give our first “Pledge of Allegiance.” We pledged allegiance, above all else, to our country (‘tis of thee), not influenced by any political persuasion, which we were blissfully unaware of back then. 

Obviously my proposal is mere cliche, but the Interdependence idea could not be needed more desperately than now. If only I could come up with new propositions that would bring back the more civil political atmosphere of the past. I’d then be a shoo-in for President, especially running as the new, fresh blood candidate, at my tender age of  seventy-six.


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