I gave you Georges Gusdorf and his comparative history of the American and French revolutions1 on the 4th of July, so a second helping for Bastille Day seems appropriate—a day late though, for reasons totally unrelated to any sort of celebration of this disgraceful historical event.
Taken and translated from Chapter VII, Les Etats-Unis et la Révolution Française ("The United States and the French Revolution")
1789 is a bout of delirium (...). The triumphant Revolution sees no limits to a new beginning, in the apocalyptical atmosphere of the [revolutionary] Journées ("Days") where everything is possible, and the inconceivable becomes reality. The old, massive Bastille falls upon the first blow. The edifice rotten from within; a few pushes were enough to bring down this paper tiger. The revolutionary leaders realize that they hold the magic power to erase and recreate the world. With an astounding speed, and facing no resistance, they learn how to turn their aspirations into law. Intoxication by unchecked power brings abusive power and tyranny.
On July the 14th, the fall of the Bastille symbolizes that of the regime at the hand of a popular authority replacing the King's and the government's (...) The revolution snowballs under the weight of this logic of the absurd called Terror by its instigators. Under the horrified eyes of the Occident, the killing machine exterminates men and communities whole; those who initiated [the Terror], soon falling under its wheels, relinquish their lives to the sanguinary Nemesis. When even the most ruthless amongst the killers, Robespierre and his friends, get sent to the guillotine, they hardly defend themselves [for] if the guillotine is the symbol and the consumption of democracy, the convicts are therefore already wrong. (...) The survivors among the terrorists [eventually] adjure an energetic soldier [Napoleon Bonaparte—DF] to save them from themselves, by putting an end to the inextricable fatality of self-extermination.
Through some sort of collective hysteria, the Revolution of Human Rights became the contrary of what she pretended to be. (...) The motherland's altar turned into a killing machine; no reasonable argumentation could possibly justify la Terreur ("The Terror")
Gusdorf continues, bringing an eerie analogy (considering he wrote these words in the late 80s) that resonates loud and clear in today's context:
Revolution is a modern form of holy war—perpetuated nowadays by Islamic Jihad2, a mix of revolution and crusade. It doesn't seem that these liturgies of death, such as they are under the influence of a rabies theologica, whichever it may be, can contribute to the progress of human spirit and civilization.
I don't know about you, but I believe this reference to Islamic Jihad as an illustration of the nefarious nature of the French revolution and its brainchild—Terror, as a political mean to establish an absolutist new order of society—by a French thinker back in 1988 should give a moment of pause to a lot of people who pretend to explain the "root causes" of the latest wave of Islamic terrorism through various preposterous reasons, ranging from the stupid to the disgustingly self-critical.
Gusdorf goes on, and slightly touches on some of the most famous—and genuine—legacies of the French Revolution:
One finds hard to understand how the champions of legal safety and respect of the law could turn into angels exterminators, vowing to death, without judgment or after a parody of judgment, a huge number of "suspects" of all kind. Replacing the divine right of the king, the divine right of the people begets a sacred fury that feeds upon itself. The instinct of death runs wild in the politicians' and the pamphleteers' addresses, (and) in the bloodthirsty orders given to the representatives and generals tasked with the repression of the insurgent provinces. Revolutionary justice is worse than the infamous dragonnades directed by Louis the XIVth against irreducible Protestants [the Huguenots, many of whom, choosing exile rather than death, would make far happier citizens of Great-Britain and yet-to-be-born United States—DF]. The policy is that of the scorched earth, and the order of the day slaughter of the population by the sword. The destruction of Oradour by Hitler's SS, and the massacre of its 600 inhabitants are legitimately considered a barbaric crime against mankind. In Vendée, in Brittany, Lyon, in the South-East of France and elsewhere, the executive orders of the Convention resulted in hundreds of Oradour—French against French (...) Hitler, at least, was coherent with himself and enforcing his doctrine; the revolutionary philanthropists professed their love for Mankind while acting as the executioners of their own people, following this logique de l'absurde that finds another contemporary illustration in Stalin.
In 1794, even though the Republic is facing no credible threat anymore—foreign or domestic—and the "peasants army" of the Vendée has been crushed by the Revolution the year before, the Convention orders its Colonnes Infernales ("Infernal Columns") to tore through Vendée and, quote, "exterminate the people of Vendée", "cleanse the soil of Liberty from this accursed race" and "destroy the Vendée". Turreau himself, the commander of the Infernal Columns, proclaims that the "Vendée must become a national cemetery"—the resulting and undiscriminating exactions and carnage against a largely submissive population of men and women, children and elders, by the armies of the young French Republic is on par with, and announces the modern days systematic massacres at the hand of all totalitarian regimes from Lenin's Soviet Union to Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Yet beyond Vendée, and as Gusdorf briefly mentions, it is a larger part of France—far larger than what the official line on the French revolution3 want you to believe—that found itself on the receiving end of the new central regime's insane violence; for alongside the simplistic concepts of Left and Right in politics, the French revolution is also the cradle of Terrorism—quite literally—and Genocide, in its most modern and ideologically charged meaning.
That explains why, despite the headlines of most news outlets around the world, I do not see anything "controversial" in Nicolas Sarkozy's choice of Bashar al-Assad as special guest of the 14th of July parade this year: having the head of a terrorist State celebrating the birth of the motherland of State Terrorism seems rather appropriate, actually.
That also explain why I never celebrate Bastille day, and why you're getting this 14th of July entry on the 15th—take my silence on the 14th as a sign of respect to the hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens, slaughtered by the French Republic in the name of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.