While traversing through several right-wing anti-OWS sites, I found one consistent reference point: The Terror. For the teabaggers, Citizen Robespierre remains a topic of keen and current interest; he is, in a sense, still alive and still a threat. See, for example, here
I do not admire him. The best one can say about Robespierre is that, although he may have meant well at first, he eventually went mad and thus had to be put down like a foamy-mouthed dog.
That said, I want to draw a comparison to another event in French history -- one which may also be relevant to our current debate over the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Eighty years after Robespierre's death, in 1871, General Mac-Mahon (who, appropos de rien
, was related to Johnny Carson's sidekick), suppressed the Paris Commune. Mac-Mahon's soldiers went on a barbaric, wholly unnecessary orgy of vengeance and violence. They killed women, children and elderly. They killed those trying to surrender. They killed everyone lying in bed in the military hospitals. They killed any man or woman who was caught carrying a match, on the grounds that such a person might
be an arsonist.
They killed patriots who had bravely continued the fight against the Prussians well after Mac-Mahon had (through his indecision and stupidity) lost the key battle of Sedan. In fact, Mac-Mahon joined forces with the hated German invaders to murder the communards.
Here's the key point I want you to take away from this short essay:
When all the bodies were counted, Mac-Mahon's victims came to a number four times larger
than the number of those who died in the Terror. The reactionaries did their bloody work in just a few days. The Terror occurred over the course of nine months.
Yet the victims of Mac-Mahon's troops are largely forgotten.
You never read about them in school, and you've never seen a movie about them. They were poor. They are the invisibles of history.
The victims of the Terror were aristocrats -- and therefore, they will be remembered forever. Today's conservatives hail them as something akin to saints.Why is our memory of history so selective?
And why do so many Americans think that class warfare goes in but one direction?