The Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation debacle is yet another solid reminder that we live in spectacularly depressing times. Two separate allegations having failed, for once, to crack the collective spines of the Republicans on Capitol Hill and derail Kavanaugh’s nomination to the nation’s highest court, Michael Avenatti, that self-aggrandizing ambulance chaser, has just become the latest to add to this bonfire of the vanities.
“They said to her in a harsh voice: ‘Cry out: Long live the nation!’ – ‘No! no!’ she said. They made her climb onto a heap of corpses. … Then a killer seized her, tore off her dress and opened her belly. She fell, and was finished off by the others.” So ended the life of the Princess de Lamballe, a close confidante of Marie Antoinette, in 1792.
This harrowing episode is one of many documented in Peter McPhee’s 2016 book about the French Revolution, Liberty or Death: The French Revolution. This thorough and well-researched work takes off in pre-revolutionary France, which the author explains “was a land of mass poverty in which most people were vulnerable to harvest failure” and “in which the weight of authority guaranteed relative obedience and stability.” This state of obedience gradually disintegrated throughout the eighteenth century, as food-rioting and “complaints about the presumptions of the privileged” increased. A patchwork of overlapping authorities of monarchy, aristocracy and Church in those days, France was economically backward compared to England, where the Industrial Revolution was well underway by 1789. France’s peasants and artisans had ample reason for discontent with their rulers.
What does a self-styled conservative who’s read his fair share of the classics make of a work that on the surface looks like an ordinary self-help book but then plunges him into hundreds of pages about the “archetypal” stories in the Bible and Disney movies, not to mention lobster hierarchies and chimpanzee behavior?
He’s fascinated and possibly a little confused at the same time, that’s what.
When Bernard Lewis wrote his excellent book with this title, he had the Muslim world in mind, but not too long from now somebody will almost certainly be producing the long-expected sequel with the West as its subject. The recent kerfuffle over Jeff Sessions praising the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement” prompted this sad thought in me, in particular after reading this commentary by Mark Steyn. “We live in wretchedly moronic times,” Steyn writes, “in which even senators, lieutenant governors and other panjandrums who bestride the land know nothing of anything that happened before last Tuesday.”
The fumes hadn’t cleared from the Manchester bomb site before the Left moved on to a threat apparently much graver than that posed by Jihadis. You see, in the same week Salman Ramadan Abedi blew himself to pieces, taking 22 others with him, a couple of deranged white guys back home in the U.S. between them stabbed three innocent people to death. Leave it to the far Left to politicize incidents like these: “White Terrorists Killed More Americans This Week Than Refugees Have in 40 Years.” And: “The Numbers Don’t Lie: White Far-Right Terrorists Pose a Clear Danger to Us All.” Out: Islamic terrorism. In: White terrorism.
Assuming your tolerance for President Obama lecturing you on the evils of Donald Trump and the NRA is as big as mine, this has been a very depressing week for you. It’s truly baffling that a terrorist attack by a Jihadi loser on a gay bar in Orlando within hours got turned into a vehicle to lambaste conservatives and push gun control, but such are the crazy times in which we now live. If you were wondering whether it was you who’s going nuts here or the entire world around you, rest assured it’s the latter.
I’ve got to thank the Islamic crazies for one thing: This time I woke up with the news, whereas last time around I went to bed with it, so at least I’m spared the morning hangover from too many glasses of scotch today. But that’s the only silver lining I can think of at the moment.