The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, one of the most beautiful and profound documents ever composed about individual freedom, was adopted on Aug, 26, 1789, by France’s constituent assembly. Closely associated with the U.S. Bill of Rights signed just a few days before, it was to become the French Revolution’s definitive statement. Along with the U.S. Constitution, it committed to words the main ideals of the Enlightenment Age, including its utopian view that a document would be enough to counter the bloodshed already in progress in France. Curiously, its principles somehow wound up working better on the other side of the ocean than in its place of birth, even if at least for a while.
In fact, it may have been pure luck that the U.S., then at war with one of the world’s biggest powers, had the right brand of leadership to be ushered to its independence relatively free of the carnage associated with the French Revolution. And that for over two hundred years, it succeed in not producing a single dictator or openly authoritarian regime.
In the meantime, within a decade, one of history’s bloodiest tyrant, Napoleon Bonaparte, had made his way to power in France, and from day one, made sure that all hope for a time of peace and prosperity would have to be put on hold once again. It’s hard to conceive how the French may have felt when their dreams were so spectacularly dashed.
But for a brief moment, almost as if coordinated, France and the U.S. dared to imagine that nations and politics could and should be driven by the well being of the people. And even if it didn’t quite work that Continue reading →
Happy Century, Woody Guthrie. Happy 223rd Anniversary, France.
This land is your land This land is my land From California to the New York island; From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters This land was made for you and Me.
A Bastille Day to make flag-wavers and phone-in idealists proud.
A time to sing La Marseillaise with the fervor of V.I.P. donors and Monday morning quarterbacks.
Go ahead, have the Riccard, the Champagne, the Bordeaux.
Soon enough, we’ll be back to the Budweisers of our discontent.
For now, though, even Fox News will mention
the Dust Bowl Troubadour and that son of a Kenyan,
in the same sentence with the socialism they’re supposed to embody.
After all, if there’s a revolution apace, it’s for the right to party. This land may be yours, but the ground is for fracking.
The Gulf Stream is still there, but loaded with oil rigs.
Corporations are now people, my friend,
and may text you to ask for your Voter ID.
But let’s give Woody the final word of the day.
For while only a few are bound for glory,
we’ll be all better off once someone does give a damn. Nobody living can ever stop me, As I go walking that freedom highway. Nobody living can ever make me turn back This land was made for you and me.
There are people who dream about impossible places they’d like to go when they die. We too imagine someday resting in an improbable place: the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. But, just we’re clear about it, we said ‘someday,’ not now, or tomorrow, well, who knows when? In any case, once we cross that threshold, we won’t give a damn. However, even if you do, you may be still out of luck: some places have the inconvenient rule of forbidding people from dying there. Either because your waste-full body may ruin the environment, or climate won’t decompose it, or perhaps because they just don’t like you. So your choice may be as well to remain alive. Or almost, like the walking dead of Toraja. Good luck keeping your friends close, though.
As for us, we’ll never understand this drive to stay alive at all costs. Doesn’t anyone realize how everything became incredibly expensive? Besides, who wants to last longer than our loved ones? In other words, we’re fine with the expiration date that’s part of the deal of living. Oh, and we don’t need to know the day or the way either.
About those places people imagine will be throwing a red carpet, or rather, a white, cloud-like rug, and a welcoming party, we’re not so sure. It’s kind of taxing to start picturing a whole new set of realities to be faced, after however long we’ll spend struggling to make sense of what’s around here. Very distracting.
But so you don’t think we’re knocking down anyone’s beliefs, let’s Continue reading →