You may not know that today is Bastille Day but all we Francophiles sure are. The Storming of the Bastille was one of the defining moments of the French Revolution. Nowadays in the US the most that happens on Bastille Day is people go and eat French food and drink French wine. But maybe we should not be so blase about this and remember some of the causes of the French Revolution in the first place.
The French Revolution was ultimately caused by the great disparity between an elite class that dominated the distribution of financial resources and a government that was highly dysfunctional and unresponsive. Perhaps as you consider the long-term trends in the US of the more and more economic rewards accruing to the wealthiest class and a more and more remote, dysfunctional government you might wonder if our future might look more like pre-Revolution France.
Of course, one would hope that things never got that bad here but it is dangerous to ignore symptoms and trends. Hence my proposal to turn Bastille Day into a US holiday complete with activities that would remind our elites and government of the ultimate penalties that might accrue to those who blithely ignore their responsibilities to the common good.
My Revised 21st Century US Bastille Day Celebration
The key to the new Bastille Day celebration will be the reminder to all that the highest classes do have responsibility to to common good and that in the great scheme of things there is accountability. To achieve this we would revive that great tradition of the French Revolution of lopping of heads with the guillotine!
Now the last thing we want is a return to the Reign of Terror. God forbid. We just need a gentle reminder to those who might abuse their positions that there are ultimate consequences to greed and self-deception.
Each year we would start our celebration on the 4th of July, our own proclamation of independence and of personal freedom. On the 4th there would be the beginning of lottery to chose the one person from the elites who would be their personal representative to be led to the guillotine. On the 4th all the appropriate names would be entered into the lottery. This would include at a minimum the President and all his Cabinet, all the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the CEO's of the Fortune 500, etc. But certainly there should be more. Maybe the major entertainment stars, athletes, state political figures, high level career bureaucrats, hedge fund and private equity managers. It would take a lot of thought to make sure we properly defined who the elite class was.
Anyway, all those peoples names go into the lottery on the 4th. Then with great fanfare and hoopla on each of the succeeding 6 days (think a giant nationwide reality TV show) one half of the remaining people on the list are removed from consideration. Think of the media field day of showing the faces of those that are coming out of the lottery pool and those that are still in!
That takes us to the 10th of July. On the 11th of July, the remaining names are put into the lottery ball type machine and just like the daily lotteries around the country, some lucky member of the hoi poloi picks the name of the elite member to be sacrificed. More great media moments; those that are not going and the in depth look at the person who will be the representative of their class.
On the 12th we start the ceremonial process of building the guillotine by the Washington Monument. There are all kinds of specials on the media about the French Revolution and its causes. Our elites (who are not chosen) are all proclaiming their commitment to the value of the greater good and the specific things they will do in the coming year to make good on those commitments. Our chosen elite sacrifice is feted, interviewed, stories of his or her life are shown. Then on the 14th we do the complete enactment including a procession on a cart to where the beheading is done. There are lots of postmortem stuff done by our elites to ensure effective stewardship of their role at the top of the pyramid.
I think that within a very short period we'd see a better balance in our country and real addressing of problems. Help me make the New Bastille Day part of our traditions.