Friday, October 24, 2008

Citoyen Égalité

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. An empty homily? It seems that every Communist takeover begins with mass killing. Somehow the visage of Che Guevara became the hero of college students everywhere, despite having been the killing arm of Castro's revolution, killing tens of thousands of the college educated and professional classes in the Havana Soccer Stadium in the months after Castro's takeover. Then there were the Killing Fields of Cambodia where the children killed the adults by the hundreds of thousands. But this is about the Duc d'Orleans, and the French Revolution.

Our students do not learn the fate of Citizen Equality in schools They don't even learn American history, much less French. We must remember the fate of Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. The Duke fancied himself a revolutionary too. He allowed the Commitee to use his chateau to plan the Revolution. He wined and dined them and supported the cause. He wrote, printed, and distributed their revolutionary pamphlets. One might even suppose that then as now, a rally was a good place to pick women of questionable virtue. He truly believed he was one of them. He was the epitome of the eighteenth Century version of "Cool".
He was indeed their best friend in the French Court. At the time he was even called the Father of the Revolution. If he had been in America now, he would vote for Obama.
When I first read of him in the Smithsonian magazine about thirty years ago, he seemed so familiar that I wondered if a coach had ever driven off the drawbridge into his moat drowning a young courtesan.
But despite all that, once the blood lust of the Terror had begun, all that was forgotten. He was after all, a Bourbon, a member of the rich elite and had to go. On 6 November 1793, he had his date with Madame Guillotine.

But we all know it can't happen here.

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