La fete Nationale, Quartonze Juillet

Declaration of the Rights of Man

Bastille DayIt’s the 230th anniversary of La Fête Nationale, Le Quatorze Juillet, or, as I learned it growing up, Bastille Day in France. It “commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789. The French Revolution transformed France into a land of equality and democracy with the Declaration of the Rights of Man in August 1789, which I assume also now apply to women.

I don’t really know much about that document. What did it say, anyway?


“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.” I’m reminded, via the musical Hamilton – which we’ll finally see in August 2019 – that while the French aided the colonists in the American Revolution, the news nation remained neutral in the French conflict with the same George III of England.

“Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.” This appears to be an intractable fight in the United States, from abortion rights to gun control.

“The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.” May we apply this to our use of social media?

“The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.” The lessons of Eisenhower seem forgotten as certain Americans are wowed by the “military parade that is a high point of the national holiday celebrations,” and wish to emulate in the US.

Of course, democracy is never a straight line. While the French Senate was founded in 1799, by 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte had declared himself the first Emperor of France. Americans should be aware that we’re not immune to such demagoguery.

March rambling #2: We are never Ivory Coast

Rob Ford died of a more respectable disease.

Stolen: We are all France. We are all Belgium. We are never Ivory Coast or Burkina Faso or Tunisia or Mali.

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Continue reading “March rambling #2: We are never Ivory Coast”

Blogging is not dead, cousin Lisa

THE MOST EGREGIOUS ERROR I believe I have EVER made in this blog is in a post three months ago.

blogging.moreMy cousin Lisa was one of the grandkids of my late great-aunt Charlotte and great-uncle Ernie Yates. Since I had no aunts, uncles, or first cousins, my closest relatives were the children of my mother’s first cousins, the eldest of whom are Anne and Lisa, Frances’s kids.

(BTW, Fran recently had her 75th birthday; belated happy birthday to her!) Anne and Lisa are about a decade younger than my sister Leslie and I.

Lisa had been living and working in the Washington, DC area for a number of years. She came to my mother’s funeral in February 2011. When Anne had Thanksgiving dinner at her house just north of New York City in 2013, which my family attended, Lisa was there as well.

At the end of 2014, Lisa quit her long-term job in the DC area and bought a one-way ticket to Paris. She is blogging about her experiences. Anne’s job has taken her to France as well, so they get to see each other more often than they did in the US. Incidentally, they were both born in France.

But recently, Lisa wrote: “One of my closest and oldest friends, someone I love very much, suffered a massive stroke that has left her hospitalized and her survival, according to the Dr’s, unlikely. I’m devastated and frantic because I can’t get information as it develops. If I was home, I’d be at her side, but I’m not, because I’m here and I can’t leave.”

Wondering what I could do for Lisa an ocean away, I asked Arthur the AmeriNZ from Chicago, who has lived in New Zealand for a couple of decades, to write to her, and he did, which she found helpful. And I would not have been able to suggest that had I not been reading his blog regularly for the last seven or eight years, learning his journey, knowing that he’s thought about those issues of being far away from America, even though he’s quite content with his life in Kiwiland.

Dustbury quoted James Lileks, who noted: “Andrew Sullivan announced he was retiring from blogging today, and given his longevity, this was seen by some as one of the great tent poles of the Golden Age of Blogging toppling over.”

But Lileks continues: “The notion of individual sites with individual voices has been replaced by aggregators and listicles and Gawker subsites with their stables of edgy youth things… But there will always be a place on the internet for individual sites like this one because there is nothing from stopping all the rampant egotists from braying bytes over this matter or that. I’ve always been a diarist, and this iteration happens to be public.”

Dustbury has been blogging for about 18 years, Jacquandor started in 2002, SamuraiFrog’s hit his tenth anniversary of blogging. None of them seem to be ready to retire.

And neither am I, even when I make mistakes. And THE MOST EGREGIOUS ERROR I believe I have EVER made in this blog is in a post three months ago, when I celebrated 8.5 years of blogging; it SHOULD have been NINE AND A HALF. This means it’s now about nine and three-quarters years.

France, Sorry About That

In the runup to the Iraq war, lots of people, including many in the United States, were opposed to it. While they may have understood the battle in Afghanistan, at least at that time, fighting a war in Iraq seemed off track with our stated mission to respond to 9/11. The governments of France and Germany, suppportive of the Afghan war, opposed the incursion into Iraq. As a result, France singularly caught a lot of backlash, not just from the punditry, but even from the US Congress, which renamed French fries “freedom fries”, and other such silliness.

I’ve come to believe that those folks had confused American patriotism with a blind and scary form of nationalism.

So I apologize for the irrationality of my fellow countryfolk. Know that this was not a universally held antipathy. In fact, when I was at a massive antiwar rally in New York City on February 15, 2003, about a month before the war began, there were folks from France who were cheered by the crowd.

I can’t begin to further explain the antipathy, so I won’t even try.