Today is Bastille Day, an incredibly important day in French history. Much like the 4th of July in America – July 14th is celebrated and honored in France, yet many Americans know little about it.
Back in 1789, the people of France were tired of an unequal system so they revolted in a bloody clash. The now iconic line from Marie Antoinette “Let them eat cake” was not only considered a rallying cry for the revolution, it is often used as a reflection of the disparity between the rich and the poor. Whether she said the famed line or not, it was actually only part of a comment, which began with “Well if they don’t have bread, then let them eat cake”.
Taken out of context, the comment may not seem that incendiary, but peasants were literally starving in the streets while the wealthy threw lavish parties, not unlike some of the conversations of the past few years in this country. Conversations about the 1%, disparaging comments about individuals who are poor, on food stamps or welfare, and implying somehow that those people are not as worthy. This type of thinking is very dangerous – divisions in society, unequal social classes without hope of escape, these were all significant ingredients in one of the bloodiest revolutions in history.
Understanding the implications of history can help us to prevent similar struggles – but only if we listen...